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    Letters to the Editors

    SUV tax incentive is an exercise in irresponsibility

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 10, 2003

    Re: The "light-truck" loophole, editorial, Feb. 4.

    As a person concerned with how our dependency on oil jeopardizes our national security, the environment, and the unnecessary money we spend at the gas pump, I appreciated seeing your recent editorial on closing the "light-truck" loophole.

    The administration needs to go boldly forward with a realistic energy policy that calls for improvements now, not later. The loophole that allows the richest people to buy a Hummer at bargain prices is breathtakingly irresponsible. That's like giving a homeowner a tax break for running the air conditioner with the doors and windows open.

    If anything, we should see incentives for people who want to buy hybrid cars or retrofit their homes with energy-efficient products and technologies. To reward anyone with a tax break for vehicles over 6,000 pounds is so clearly wasteful that it is embarrassing.

    The Bush administration can do better than this.
    -- Kelly Hulett, St. Petersburg

    Our ever-shrinking oil supply

    Re: The "light-truck" loophole, Feb. 4.

    I would like to commend the Times for exposing another example of the Bush administration's head-in-the-sand approach to our nation's economic and energy policy.

    The prediction that the known oil reserves will last another 40 years is flawed when you consider that the estimates do not factor in the Department of Energy's own future growth and consumption-rate estimates. "At the beginning of 2000, the world's proven reserves of petroleum stood at 1,033-billion barrels, or sufficient oil to sustain global consumption (at the then-current rate of 73-million barrels per day) for another 40 years. If, however, oil consumption rises by 2 percent per year as predicted by the U.S. Department of Energy, the existing supply will disappear in 25 to 30 years, not 40." (Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict).

    We tend to forget that we are not the only consumers of this planet's oil resources. We forget that the plastic in almost everything we use from computers to garbage bags, as well as our tires, are all produced from this ever-shrinking supply of oil. As our insatiable demand grows, and as our ability to keep up with the rising worldwide demand for petroleum falters, the law of supply and demand will become painfully obvious to us all.

    Bush's new era of trillion-dollar budget deficits, along with his total lack of vision and interest in spending on alternative transportation infrastructure, will spell disaster for the average American. As oil prices continue to rise, those at the lower end of the economic ladder, with the least ability to cope, will be the most adversely effected. However, the middle class will find that the soaring costs to commute and heat their homes will force them to curtail most nonessential purchases, further damaging the economy. Because of Bush's lack of vision, this nation's ability to maintain its once-enviable economy will cough and sputter, and come to a screeching halt, much like our gas-guzzling SUVs as they run out of fuel.
    -- Douglas Steel, Ocala

    Convenience over clean air

    Re: Trifling with trust funds, editorial, Feb. 7.

    I read with little surprise but considerable dismay that Gov. Bush is planning to loot the environmental trust fund in order to finance his latest tax cuts and related shortfalls. This is short-sighted in the extreme. Apparently he sees no value in previous efforts to clean up rivers and lakes, protect the Everglades, stop the poaching of endangered species, or restoring damaged coral reefs. Who needs these things anyway, as long as we have plenty of highways and SUVs (and oil)?

    I recently drove across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and was unable to see what was on the other side, due to a heavy stain of yellow-brown smog that covered the horizon in every direction. I haven't seen that kind of pollution since leaving Los Angeles.

    One need look no further than Tallahassee for the source of this mess. One of Jeb's first acts as governor was to scrap automotive exhaust emission inspections and regulations. Apparently, clean air and water play second fiddle to convenience, both in Tallahassee and Washington these days. I just wish these politicians would stop telling us they care about the environment when it's as clear as our sky and water used to be that they don't.
    -- E. C. Ayres, St. Petersburg

    Bush's devious, dictatorial plans

    Re: Trifling with trust funds, Feb. 7.

    In reading this article it would appear as though our governor believes that he is above his constituents and his fellow lawmakers. He is an elected official, who should be following the will of the people, not behaving like an all-powerful dictator, doing what he pleases, when he pleases. This is what it is looking more and more like.

    We, the voters, decided to put certain things in place (class size amendments) and instead of being constructive and working on solutions, our governor proceeds with "devious plans" and robs Peter to pay Paul. All the while handing out financial relief (tax breaks) to those not in financial trouble. What gives?
    -- Yvonne M. Osmond, Hudson

    Continue their quest

    As the world mourns the loss of the crew of Columbia, some question the wisdom of continued space exploration. Throughout history many have doubted the need for exploration and advancement. Some opposed funding for Columbus; their descendants felt that railroads were not needed. Later, others felt that the automobile was unnecessary because the horse and buggy worked so well.

    The costs of progress are always high. In the early years of aviation, many lost their lives blazing a trail that we would later follow. In 1910 alone, 32 people died in aircraft accidents. The ancestors of today's space program critics probably felt that aircraft were too costly and dangerous to allow.

    The brave explorers aboard Columbia and previous missions were aware of the risks they took. They knew that the space program has provided countless benefits for humanity in medicine, weather forecasting, communications, computers, aeronautics and many other areas. They knew that space technology is the key to obtaining unlimited clean energy and raw materials for humanity.

    They took the risk because they knew that space exploration will lead to a brighter future for us and our children. They gave their lives for all of us in pursuit of their dream for the future. The only tragedy greater than their death would be the death of the dream that they believed in.

    It is up to us to see that they did not give their lives in vain. It is up to us to continue their quest. We must redouble our efforts in space exploration. We owe it to them, to ourselves and to our children.
    -- Jay Wittner, vice president, National Space Society, Bradenton

    We have not been good stewards

    Re: Troops merit same attention as shuttle disaster and We have needs here at home, letters, Feb. 6.

    I totally agree with the letter writers in regard to the recent tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with the crew's families and friends -- but -- when will our great country realize how much better we can use our tax dollars? I am proud as an American that we were the first to set foot on the moon; but as the saying goes, we've "been there and done that."

    Why must we always be first in everything? If all that money had been spent here in our own country, I feel we'd have found cures for many diseases we all fear so much, such as cancer, MS, AIDS, etc. And what about the many seniors who have to decide between food and needed medications, hungry children and underpaid teachers? God has richly blessed the United States of America and I feel we have not acted as good stewards of what He has given us. I pray our government will eventually wake up and get their priorities straight.
    -- Betsy Wisler, Pinellas Park

    Cure cancer instead

    Re: Columbia disaster.

    Two weeks ago my mother died from cancer. I mourned her death. I am sorry the shuttle blew up. If all the money that has been spent on NASA had been spent on finding a cure for cancer, I wonder if she would be alive and in good health today.

    Call me selfish, but I would rather have a cure for cancer than the space program.
    -- Mark Johnson, New Port Richey

    Those '50s were fabulous, indeed

    This is in response to the article in the Jan. 28 Seniority section of the St. Petersburg Times concerning the fabulous fifties (Were the '50s really that oh-so-fabulous?). I take umbrage with the author's panning of the decade. Considering the depressed 1930s and the war-torn 1940s that preceded the 1950s and the turbulent 1960s and the drug-infested 1970s that followed, yes, the '50s were indeed fabulous.

    Who can forget television with just major networks and no pay cable stations? Huntley and Brinkley broadcasting the news, the Mickey Mouse Club for the kiddies, Father Knows Best and Ozzie and Harriet during prime time, plus my favorites, the Ed Sullivan Show every Sunday night, I Remember Mama and The Lone Ranger.

    The '50s were the last time America was happy. It was the beginning of cars that came in colors, frozen foods, pickup ball games for kids after school, unlocked doors at night, the birth of rock-and-roll music, no fast foods making Americans fat like today, Disneyland, no computers, the three R's in school leading kids to spell, do math and read very well.

    The sports world with those damn Yankees in baseball, no expansion teams to dilute player experience, great players like Mantle, Musial, Mays, Berra and Maris, one season ended before another began, no prima donna athletes and free agency.

    Great movies like All About Eve, Around the World in 80 Days, The King and I, The Ten Commandments and anything with Audrey Hepburn in it. Great movies icons like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Marlon Brando. And the debut of Elvis Presley!

    We had cheap gas, 25-cent movies, students who studied hard, the passage of Brown vs. Board of Education inaugurating integration of public schools and the start of the New Hampshire primary picking the winner of every presidential race.

    I could go on and on, but you can see the '50s were unique, original and a wonderful time to be alive.
    -- Richard E. Doyle, Madeira Beach

    Needed: A world-class audience

    Re: Symphonic showpiece for horn has power and delicacy, by John Fleming, Feb. 3.

    Jahja Ling is again in the bay area making great music and I'm sure his Feb. 2 performance at Ruth Eckerd Hall reminded him vividly of where he was. I've never seen or heard him so enthusiastic, and the orchestra was at the top of its form.

    Regretfully, the audience was at the bottom of its form. Ling had his work cut out for him. From the hacking and coughing to the ringing cell phone between movements of Bruckner's Fourth and the abundance of empty seats, we certainly showed Ling what he left behind.

    Tampa Bay now has a world-class sports team and certainly a world-class orchestra. Will we ever have a world-class audience?
    -- Ron Edenfield, St. Petersburg

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