Letters to the Editor - Jan. 30
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 5:29 p.m.
Don't outsource our utility
The City Commission voted Monday afternoon to seek final proposals from three companies to build a biomass/garbage/tire-fueled power plant. This decision was made despite strong arguments by Commissioner Jack Donovan and the public to delay a decision; ranging from serious doubts about who should own the plant, toxicity of the fuels mix, lack of environmental controls, inappropriate selection criteria, and questionable electricity demand projections.
I will address two issues: ownership and environmental controls.
GRU is wholly owned by this community and represents an important revenue source. Why in the name of risk reduction would we buy biomass power from an out-of-town firm and see the profits leave town? Better to seek out the company with the most widely proven technology to build a turnkey power plant and then hire competent staff to run it.
Energy cost will increase, it is inevitable. Should raising rates be a corporate profits decision or a policy decision by representatives of Gainesville area consumers? Raising rates fosters conservation. If GRU raises rates, the revenue can be used creatively to foster new technology, educate the community, and compensate those most vulnerable to cost increase.
A significant component of the biomass consumed by the proposed plant will come from forest ecosystems around Gainesville. GRU has created an expert Sustainable Biomass Procurement Technical Committee to advise on how to best assure that biomass comes from sustainably managed forests. How can GRU deliver on this commitment if biomass procurement decisions are made by an out-of-state company?
Citizen engagement is desperately needed!
Joshua C. Dickinson, The Forest Management Trust,
Burning garbage stinks
Doesn't burning garbage to create energy sound like a great idea? Get rid of the garbage by creating energy from this "renewable fuel." What could be better than that?
Try swimming in the contaminated Fenholoway River, or take a whiff of Palatka's paper mill air to experience a couple of reasons why recycling is much better.
The real kicker is that burning garbage produces less energy than would be saved by recycling it. EPA data show that the energy obtained from waste is less by a factor of three to five than the extra energy required to produce more from virgin materials instead of recycled ones.
Similarly, source reduction and recycling are the most effective ways to manage waste to reduce greenhouse gases. Burning beats only landfilling without methane recovery.
Plastics that now constitute 10-12 percent of the waste and contain 30-40 percent of the energy content are derived mostly from natural gas and are certainly not renewable. Most of the plastic is, in fact, recyclable, but source reduction would eliminate the need to keep producing it from natural gas.
Paper and paper products, such as cardboard that make up about 40 percent of municipal solid waste and contain over 50 percent of the energy content, are "renewable," but at enormous environmental costs.
Garbage burners are very effective ways of pumping money from a community to pay off bondholders elsewhere through tipping fees. Communities that choose recycling instead of burning garbage see it as a resource to create waste-based industries that recycle money through the community as well.
Nationwide, there are about one million jobs and over $100 billion in revenue in recycling industries that cannot be outsourced.
Choosing how we end life
Paul Malley (Sun, Jan 24) complains that UF gave $50,000 and a soapbox to a "convicted murderer," Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian, who advocates for the right of people suffering from a terminal illness to choose when to end their lives.
Malley is president of Aging with Dignity which has sold 11 million copies of the Five Wishes advanced directive which can be purchased online at $5 a clip. So much for the profit motive.
Dignified care at the end of life is something we all want. Needless suffering, reliance on feeding tubes, respirators, and mind numbing drugs to kill pain may be fine for some, but not for others.
It was not "Dr. Death" who wanted people to die rather than care for them, but rather the people themselves who wanted to be able to choose when to end their lives with dignity, which is something the law in most states prohibits.
Malley was surprised that no one in the audience had the courage to stand up and yell, "Don't kill me Doc." I suggest it was not a lack of courage, but the conviction that most people want to make their own decisions about these matters unfettered by religious-based laws to the contrary.
Machen doesn't get it
The University of Florida depends for its success on Florida's public schools graduating well-educated students ready for intensive advanced education.
Its opportunities for greatness will decline in proportion to the number of fully prepared applicants. Whatever improves Florida's schools boosts UF, and anything which harms those schools threatens the Gator Nation.
Surely UF President Bernie Machen understands this equation, but he doesn't seem to find it very important. He remains silent as a wave of ill-informed county school boards organize in opposition to desperately needed upgrades in Florida's science education standards.
It speaks poorly of Machen that he exploits his status to endorse a questionable political candidate - and, inescapably, that candidate's even more dubious party.
That's a relatively minor indiscretion, by modern standards. He may be stepping out of academic bounds by playing such a game, but at least he's acting within his constitutional rights when he does.
Machen's failure to speak out in defense of adequate science teaching, on the other hand, violates his implicit obligation to promote the excellence of the university and its students. He knows that it will do no good for Florida's high school graduates to need long semesters of remedial classes to unlearn pseudo-science before they're ready for Biology 101.
For Machen to put partisan politicking ahead of the necessities of his own institution, and the career prospects of this state's students, is disappointing and irresponsible.
Those who take science education seriously might want to follow this issue on the Web site of Florida Citizens for Science.
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