Gushers of oil

Not an oil tax but a tax on alcohol is the crying need [``Tax gasoline now,'' Feb. 4]. Struggling working people deserve to get a lowered price on gas and heating oil. Alcohol, on the other hand, flows like water in America, and no one is forced to buy or drink it. Liquor companies continue to amass windfall profits and buy up other companies.

Besides helping the deficit, a 30 percent tax on all alcohol would also reduce highway accidents that cause so much hand wringing. Ada Roxbury Carmel, Calif.

We have been awash in coverage of the glut in oil production and the associated plummet in oil prices. While there is good reason to be pleased with lower oil prices, two critical aspects of the current global oil situation have been given short shrift.

First, a major reason for OPEC's problems is that many nonoil-producing nations decided a decade ago to build nuclear power plants to replace oil. Last year the world got almost as much energy from nuclear power as was produced by North Sea and Mexican oil fields combined.

Nuclear power has caused a permanent loss of 6 million barrels per day of oil for OPEC -- or put another way, it has meant that some oil-importing nations have been able to avoid purchasing more than $50 billion a year in oil imports in just one year.

Enough nuclear plants are in the ``pipeline'' to replace another $15 billion a year in oil imports.

That we should keep encouraging this trend is evident when one considers a second, largely ignored fact; i.e., despite the current oil production glut, the world is consuming a nonreplenishable resource.

In the period 1955-64, the world added three times as much oil to reserves as was consumed; from 1965 to '74, world reserves increased by twice as much as total consumption; but from 1975 to '84, when the incentive to find oil was unprecedented because prices were at an all-time high, the world, for the first time, consumed twice as much oil as was added to total reserves!

These lessons are well recognized by our allies as they press forward with the complementary goals of increased efficiency and increased nuclear power production.

Here in the US as we watch our nuclear energy industry fade away, we seem to have absorbed only half the lesson. Prof. Sullivan Marsden Jr. Stanford University Petroleum Engineering Stanford, Calif.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address to ``readers write.''

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