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Lower-mileage ethanol is really no improvement

Letters to the Editor
Published September 17, 2006

Re: Bush starts ethanol flow, Sept. 14

I saw the story and picture of Gov. Jeb Bush filling his vehicle with E-85 ethanol fuel. The story says that one has to discount the savings because E-85 vehicles get "20 to 25 percent" less mileage than cars using pure gasoline. That is an interesting statement. Using those figures, there are no savings at all!

Using 85 percent of the gasoline to go only 75 to 80 percent of the miles is a lose-lose situation by the most simple of calculations. Why has this not been seen before?

Ian MacFarlane, St. Petersburg


Citizens has no place charging every homeowner

Re: Citizens to consider 2 percent assessment, Sept. 13

I just wonder why every property owner in Florida would be expected to pay for losses incurred by the Citizens Property Insurance Co. I can't afford insurance for my own home, so why would I want to pay someone else's insurance bill? The way I see it, chances are there will be no hurricanes this year. If that is the case, Citizens is collecting from 1.2-million property owners now and will have no payouts.

Let the legislators who allowed the insurance companies to leave homeowners holding the bag make cuts in some other areas of government spending. When do we get a break from this out-of-control spending? All taxes should be put on hold until the economy stabilizes.

Robert Thompson, Clearwater

Continued fur trading shows lack of compassion

Re: It's back - and back in trouble, Sept. 13

While having lunch and reading the Business section, I turned the page and went into a state of revulsion upon viewing the picture accompanying this article on fur sales.

It looked like there were thousands of skins of animals hanging, no doubt brutally murdered and now to be auctioned off like pieces of ordinary cloth. The article mentioned that there were 1.7-million pelts that were formerly minks. Hundreds of thousands of wild beavers, raccoons, weasels and foxes were also to be auctioned.

I had really believed that the days of the cavemen and cavewomen were over, but they are not. How obscene to kill these animals for boots, hats, gloves, scarves, blankets and coats. Have we really evolved, after all? When will true peace invade our consciousness and lead us to being a truly caring and compassionate species? Dare I dream!

Marilyn Weaver, Tarpon Springs

Cypress Gardens' plight illustrates state's challenge

Re: Theme park files for bankruptcy, Sept. 13

While Floridians are keenly aware of the current insurance crisis facing homeowners, the bankruptcy filing of Cypress Gardens exposes an even greater threat to our vibrant economy.

Consider the seemingly dismal situation for Cypress Gardens and think of the effect of extended litigation on the small- and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of Florida's economy. Forget the fact that many can't even get policies or are having them canceled. Imagine having to face several years of litigation to recoup insurance losses. For many businesses, it would be impossible, and therein lies the problem.

Litigation can take years. Without the support of politicians, communities and financial backers that Cypress Gardens appears to have, the average Florida business would simply go under during this period of time and the ripple effect could be devastating to its surrounding economic community.

The obvious major threat is the effect on employment. Mounting legal fees, increasing commercial rents and additional bankruptcy filings also will affect creditors and investment at the local level. All the while, consumers will bear the brunt through higher costs, and an already depressed real estate market will continue to decline as our once-vibrant economy ceases to attract the thousands of people moving to Florida annually.

While local government has done a good job keeping the economy humming along, finding solutions to issues that threaten our businesses and ways to keep our insurance companies honest is a challenge that remains unsolved. With the rising cost of living, insurance rates and taxes, the last thing Florida's residents can afford is to see the lifeblood of our economy become tied up in red tape insurance technicalities.

William "Chip" Merlin, managing partner, Merlin Law Group, Tampa

State Farm's insurance math doesn't add up

Re: State Farm rate increase

An article referred to a 52 percent approval rate hike for State Farm in July. In November 2005, my homeowners insurance premium was $1,084. My new cost for November 2006 is $2,263.63. I believe this is over 100 percent.

What happened to the 52 percent approval?

Raymond Evans, Largo

Editor's note: Rate increase approvals for State Farm and others typically refer to the average rate increase. Any given policy may increase by a much larger (or lesser) amount.

Welplex is best nicotine treatment for some

Re: Smoked out, Sept. 9

I'm an ex-smoker who, about eight years ago, smoked two packs a day, always kept two packs on my person, two to three packs in my car and a carton at home. I would panic at the thought of not being able to smoke. I believe that would certainly be defined as addicted.

At that time, Welplex was called the National Center for Nicotine Addiction, and I went through the treatment. I found the company fully supportive and walked out of the office without any cravings or withdrawal. Prior to using their method, I had tried the gum, the patches, hypnosis, cold turkey, special filters, cabbage cigarettes and whatever else came up the pike. This treatment was the only thing that worked for me.

As for bad side effects, I don't believe that the other methods of nicotine control are without them. In fact, there is a long list included in each package. Addiction is as much a psychological condition as it is physical. Any number of mental problems can arise from stopping an addictive substance. Support groups for smokers who quit are out there and easily available. I was given a list of such groups when I left the treatment offices.

The main problem with the acceptance of this treatment is the big money that is fighting it. Cigarette companies, drug manufacturers, cigarette wholesales and retailers all stand to lose quite a bit of revenue if this treatment becomes highly promoted and accepted.

Nothing works for everyone. Addiction is the hardest thing there is, since it also concerns a mental change along with a physical one.

Bob McAdoo, Port Richey

State's idea of good pay is hardly a living wage

Re: State lays foundation for better paying jobs, Sept. 9

Your article would have the average reader believe that this new state-funded program is like manna from God. Are you kidding?

I recently moved here from Pennsylvania, where I owned a medium-sized construction company. I was shocked to find that skilled workers are only paid $15 per hour. In Pennsylvania, that is a starting wage for an unskilled worked. Even in residential nonunion jobs, skilled carpenters are getting upward of $30 per hour, plus benefits, which usually includes health insurance, a 401(k) and auto allowance.

When I moved here, I was able to get one of those higher-paying jobs you mentioned, but I am one of the fortunate few. With housing costs as high as they are here, it's no wonder that so many of the skilled workers who make their way to Florida in search of a better life end up leaving after just a year or so.

In western Pennsylvania where I come from, the average cost of a family-sized home is about $100,000 with many older homes available for less. Compare that to the typical "affordable" housing everybody raves about down here starting at a mere $150,000. And by the way, it's 40 miles from the "good-paying" jobs, so at 3 bucks a gallon - well, it just doesn't compute.

How many families do you know that can afford a $150,000 home, a car and groceries on $31,000 a year? Homeowners insurance in Florida is outrageous, if you can get it at all, and nearly everything from apples to zucchini costs just a little more. Florida's problem is not the lack of workers. It is out-of-control prices on everything.

Let me also say that I am greatly discouraged by what the "high-end" builders are passing off as quality work. You certainly aren't getting the quality of product that you see elsewhere in the country. Quite frankly, that's because so many builders understand that the average period of homeownership is three years in most up-and-coming Florida developments, whereas the average period of ownership in other areas averages 15 years. That means the builder only has to build a home that looks good for three years.

D. Thomas, Punta Gorda

Citywide wi-fi contract is waste of time, money

Re: A city unplugged, Sept. 7

Congratulations to the citizens of St. Petersburg. You are on the verge of paying $30 a month for something you can get free today. I am talking about wi-fi. Simply take your laptop computer downtown and turn it on, and the number of free signals will overwhelm you. Most businesses allow you to do this as a way of advertising their businesses. Even most homeowners use unsecured networks that are also available.

If we simply use what's available to us for free today, the next phase of wi-fi will be along shortly and you will be able to receive signals from your computer from up to 30 miles instead of 300 feet, as they are now. As you can imagine, the major communications companies are very concerned at this possibility. Licensing companies to provide citywide wi-fi is a very bad idea.

Philip A. Bellefleur, St. Petersburg

Current fuel costs don't justify utility rate hikes

Re: Higher electric bills are likely, Sept. 2

"While natural gas prices are projected to rise 12 percent next year, Progress says, oil prices are expected to jump 35 percent. Progress uses oil to generate 20 percent of its power, while Tampa Electric uses a negligible amount."

I quote from your business story. With the decline in oil prices and the lowest natural gas prices in two years, I am sure one of your crackerjack investigative reporters in the Business section will do a followup article about whether any rate increase in January is warranted. But having experienced your feelings about Progress Energy, I will not hold my breath waiting for it.

Tony Witlin, St. Petersburg


[Last modified September 16, 2006, 20:51:51]

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