CAFE Is an Inefficient Road to Fuel Efficiency

The opinion-page column "Detroit Misses the Mark, Again," Aug. 19, misses the mark with me. The analysis of recent automotive history ignores the market and social conditions of the times.Consumers are not stupid. They will buy a product that meets a perceived need in spite of its other shortcomings. If consumers had wanted more fuel-efficient cars in the 1950s, they would have bought more Nash Ramblers and Volks- wagens. Today, if higher fleet average fuel economy is a desirable public goal, corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards are an inefficient method of achieving it. The most certain way to achieve a higher fleet average is to incrementally increase the gasoline tax over time, so fuel economy becomes more important to consumers. Back-door methods like CAFE, which promise "painless" gains, only result in rule manipulations such as the use of so many imported parts in the Ford Crown Victoria that it qualifies as an import and is not included in the corporate domestic fleet average. Safety features such as disc brakes and antilock braking systems became broadly available without government mandates. In the increasingly global automotive market, the Big Three are hardly able to dictate to anyone. They have made some serious competitive and managerial errors and face structural problems domestically and internationally. Let us read more about these issues and less vitriolic rhetoric. Randel Baehr, St. Louis

Misplaced Virgil Regarding the Home Forum essay "When You're Nine Years Old and You Live on a Farm," Aug. 6: In the last paragraph, the writer refers to Virgil as a "wise Greek philosopher." Actually, he was a Roman poet, sponsored by Augustus to make up an account of the founding of Rome. By coincidence, he was the son of a farmer, which may have given rise to the author's confusion about the heritage. However, the poem Virgil came up with was the Aeneid, which tells of Aeneas's escape from Troy to Carthage, from where he sailed across to Italia and his destiny in Rome, much to the discomfiture of a lady named Dido, who stood on a coastal promontory in Carthage and watched him leave. Virgil's vivid imagination gave Augustus a good story to work with, but it did not give us a Greek philosopher. Marion Stoer, Baltimore

More women poets, please The Monitor's coverage of the literature and the arts continues to enrich my daily life. In the past week, I especially appreciate the article "More Oates-Style Keyhole Realism," Aug. 20, an insightful review of Joyce Carol Oates's new book, "Heat." I think it is the best commentary I have ever read on her writing. I also appreciate the interview with poet William Stafford entitled "Opening the Moment," Aug. 21. Your paper's continued willingness to give two-page spreads to poetry is one thing that makes it impossible for me to consider giving up my subscription. Still, I wish you would devote those two-page spreads to a woman poet more often. How about Janet Lewis, Tess Gallagher, Sharon Olds, Amy Clampitt, Carolyn Kizer, Susan Griffin, Joy Harjo, Olga Broumas, Denise Levertov, La Loca, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Carolyn Forche, Louise Erdrich, et al.? I am not a raving feminist, just one quiet voice asking for equal time. C. Anderson, Santa Barbara, Calif.

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