1. Letters to the Editor

Thursday's letters: Protect pensions from the politicians

Pension vote puts some members in awkward position | May 18

Protect pensions from politicians

The Times is to be commended for reporting about Florida House members who voted against allowing new employees into the state pension plan while taking advantage of it themselves. This is akin to refusing Medicaid expansion while enjoying very cheap but highly beneficial state health plans.

However, the story overlooks several very significant facts about this sudden opposition to pensions for state workers. Foremost, this legislation was crafted by a powerful if shadowy organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council, to which scores of current and former Florida officeholders belong. Conservative corporate interests at ALEC have been working for several years to end defined-benefit pensions in the public sector, presumably to expand use of the less desirable 401(k) plans that yield lucrative fees and steer large sums into the stock market.

Claims that our pension fund is unsustainable are bogus, although closing it to new members is one way to cause real problems. Florida has one of the healthiest pension funds in the United States, and is far from generous to the great majority of recipients.

Oversight, however, is a huge problem. Stewardship of this multibillion-dollar piggy bank rests with the governor, attorney general and chief financial officer, all elected officials and none required to have any financial expertise. That situation does imperil the health of the fund, and in the past 15 years there have been a string of losses due to bad investment decisions.

If anything is endangering state pensions, it is not the meager benefits they pays, but the questionable investments that have been made. The emerging "wisdom" that defined-benefit plans are unworkable is a well-traveled lie by corporate interests and greedy politicians.

Susan Greenbaum, Temple Terrace

The results are in on global warming May 20, commentary

Diet and climate are linked

A review of 12,000 papers on climate change found that 97 percent of scientists attribute climate change to human activities. Although we're unlikely to reverse climate change, we can mitigate its effects by reducing our driving, energy use and meat consumption.

Yes, meat consumption. A 2006 U.N. report estimated that meat consumption accounts for 18 percent of man-made greenhouse gases. A 2009 article in the respected World Watch magazine suggested that it may be closer to 50 percent.

Carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, is generated by burning forests to create animal pastures and by combustion of fossil fuels to confine, feed, transport and slaughter animals. The much more damaging methane and nitrous oxide are discharged from digestive tracts of cattle and from animal waste cesspools, respectively.

Each of us has the power to reduce the devastating effects of climate change every time we eat.

Earl Blanchard, Redington Shores

Threat from climate rising May 19, editorial

Control emissions

On the issue of climate change, one cannot have it both ways. On the one hand, this newspaper has editorialized regarding the threat from global warming and the need to do something about it, and on the other (within the last two weeks) editorialized against nuclear power in favor of building a natural gas energy plant.

Natural gas, albeit a cleaner-burning fossil fuel, is still putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. To make a change, one has to resolve to do something different. Nuclear power, albeit expensive, is a way to stop introducing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The replacement for Crystal River has Florida at a crossroads, facing a choice we may not be at again for a long time: invest in a technology that is emission-free, or "save money" and continue burning fossil fuels, living with the consequences outlined in this recent editorial.

Stuart McKinney, Gulfport

What you can do to fix climate change May 19, commentary

Information, please

This was a great article, but it left me wanting to see a definitive list of things we can really do rather than just four things — which we've already likely heard about — "among a long list." How about the full "long list"? There are probably lots of us out here who would do more with more direction.

Jan DeCamp, Lutz

Putnam says no to Levy study | May 17

Unsafe and unnecessary

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is on record as having stated that "nuclear power continues to be a clean, cheap, long-term solution." I wish state Rep. Mike Fasano had asked him the following questions: Is nuclear waste clean? Is $25 billion cheap? Did Crystal River provide us with a long-term solution, or a long-term problem?

Duke Energy Florida president Alex Glenn does not mention the huge profit Duke will make if the Levy County nuclear plant is built. He talks instead about "diversifying the fuel mix" with a "balanced portfolio" approach. Such language suggests investing equally in all forms of energy, or generating equal amounts of power from each form of energy. But documents on file with the Public Service Commission show the actual plan is to limit renewable energy to just 3 percent of the fuel mix, while forcing consumers to invest a huge amount of money in a new nuclear plant.

Multiple studies have shown that energy efficiency costs less than 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. James Fenton, director of the Florida Solar Energy Center, has publicized the fact that Florida could save as much electricity through energy efficiency as could be generated by 10 nuclear power plants.

In short, nuclear power is uneconomical, unclean, unsafe and unnecessary.

Thomas Eppes, Thonotosassa