Amendment Would Allow Evaluation of All Clean-Burning Fuels

The editorial ``Bush's Pace on the Environment,'' Nov. 6, states that a recent amendment passed by a US House of Representatives subcommittee ``weakened'' the president's proposal for alternative fuel use. President Bush, a week after the amendment was adopted, said the subcommittee's work is good news for clean-burning fuels. The amendment, introduced by Texas Reps. Jack Fields (R) and Ralph Hall (D), seeks to assure that the best fuels emerge. If all fuels are fairly evaluated, the nation may enjoy cleaner air more rapidly. America's consumers ultimately foot the bill for cleaner air.

Opponents of the Fields-Hill amendment claim the standard should be based on the emissions of pure methanol, under the assumption that mass-produced vehicles burning pure methanol will someday be designed. Many problems must be overcome before that happens. For example, temperatures in six of the nine cities targeted for alternative fuel vehicles under the president's program regularly dip below freezing. But cars powered by pure methanol will not start in freezing weather. There are also safety, emissions, and fuel-economy concerns which must be addressed.

The three domestic auto manufacturers and 14 US oil companies have joined in a research program that considers both cars and the fuels they use as a total system. This will provide decisionmakers at all levels of government with information on cost-effective fuel and vehicle systems. Michael Fay, Washington, Administrator, Clean Air Working Group

The myth of values The editorial ``Tests Have Limits,'' Nov. 7, helps perpetuate a myth that the educational establishment holds dear: America wants education that is focused on values.

The world - meaning business and government - knows that US society evaluates in commercial terms. Education is held to the same standard. Tests send the message that education is a commercial exchange; and that is what society wants. Educators, myself included, may wish this were not so, but we only delude ourselves by sustaining the illusion that we are primarily expected to teach ``decency, bravery, character, and wonder.''

Society's behavior, rather than its rhetoric, shows that America wants skills before values. The confusion over goals between society and educators predicates that we shall get neither. Phillip E. Paeltz, Belleville, Ill., Headmaster, Governor French Academy

Drug Legalization The opinion-page column ``Don't Just Throw Money At the Drug Problem,'' Nov. 6, rightly calls the drug situation a social problem at root. The US puts a greater percentage of its people in prisons than any other nation in the world. This fact should make people wonder. Instead we build more prisons.

The idea of repealing drug prohibitions is still a dangerous subject. At the beginning of liquor prohibition, the country overwhelmingly supported it. By the time it was repealed, it was thought of as a bad joke. As soon as politicians and editors lift the curse from legalization by treating it as a serious option, citizens will begin to treat the idea more rationally.

Yes, we should study our misguided social priorities. We should be concerned with learning how to treat one another with trust and respect. We should encourage responsibility. But legalization is a powerful message: In order to survive, we must learn to act consciously, compassionately, with purpose. We've got to mature past the point where we have to be told how to act and think. P.K. Malof, Seattle

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