Caring for the Environment

In the Opinion page article "Government-Imposed Energy Efficiency - a Bad Idea," June 30, the author does not consider two fundamental aspects of the American economy.

First, he does not recognize the common-sense notion that "there is no such thing as a free lunch." The utilization of any resource always bears a cost, although not always in monetary terms. Because the market lacks a mechanism to measure the cost of using the atmosphere as a garbage dump, polluters can contaminate our air free of charge.

Second, despite its potential for profit, market forces will not naturally draw investors into the use of renewable energy sources for two reasons. One is the huge start-up costs in the environment of an unchartered and capital-intensive market. The other is that the structure of the US economy motivates firms to acquire short-term profit instead of setting goals for economic vitality in the long term.

Since our "free" market does not perform in a perfect manner, the intervention of an outside agency - in this case the US government - is a necessity if we are to insure the long-term health of our economy, and of the generations to come. Michael Toppa, Santa Cruz, Calif.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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