ComEd Defends Its Prices

The front-page article "Competition Hoped to Bring Cheaper Power," Sept. 16, cites Chicago-based ComEd's higher electric rates, as compared to neighboring utilities. There are good reasons for that, as I mentioned to your reporter. ComEd invested in additional generating capacity in the 1980s to meet our region's growing energy needs; neighboring utilities did not. Another important factor: the higher cost of doing business in a major metropolitan area. When compared to electric rates in the nation's largest cities, a much fairer comparison, rates paid by Chicago-area consumers rank at about the midpoint.

At the same time, we recognize that the electric utility industry has entered a period of dramatic transformation. This change, toward a deregulated electricity marketplace, will produce many, perhaps unanticipated, consequences. But it is driven by a belief that competition is desirable and achievable for all aspects of our nation's economy.

While some maintain that competition will naturally result in lower prices, economists can debate the issue at length, depending as it does on variables such as technological developments, transmission capacities, and demand curves, to name a few. These uncertainties apply nationwide and, as a result, predicting the effect of deregulation on electric rates remains largely a speculative endeavor.

ComEd looks forward to competing in a competitive marketplace for the consumer's energy dollar. However, we won't lose sight of the fact that if we are to succeed, we must continue to focus on meeting our consumers' basic electricity needs, in terms of cost and reliability.

Frank M. Clark


Governmental Affairs Vice President

Commonwealth Edison Co.

Franais, s'il vous plat

As an American of French-Canadian ancestry, I was appalled to see the map in the Sept. 4 issue, which purports to show the scope of the English language in the world.

This map lists Canada among the countries in which English is the official language.

As a newspaper that covers Canada far better than most American newspapers, you should not have perpetuated what is, for many Americans, a common misconception.

Let's set the record straight. Canada is officially bilingual. French and English are its official languages.

Paul Carrier

Augusta, Maine

Choose or lose

The editorial "Vying for Vouchers," Sept. 17, ignores the reality of the plight of public schools and the mounting dissatisfaction with their performance. It once again objects to the obvious solution: enabling parents to choose the school that will best serve the needs of their children, and this without a financial penalty.

Olin J. Murdick

Essexville, Mich

Are air bags safe?

The article "Automakers' Plan Highlights The Need for Better Air Bag," Aug. 26, states that the benefits of air bags outweigh their risks, and even though air bags may contribute to injuries, they save more lives than they cause harm. Two years of data gathered in Alabama by the Alabama Department of Public Safety show that this is not the case, and that air bags actually contribute to more deaths and injuries than they prevent.

About 8 percent of the occupants who wore lap belts were killed or injured, whereas only 6 to 7 percent of the occupants who wore shoulder harnesses with lap belts were killed or injured.

Most surprising were the data on air bags. The death and injury rates in all cars equipped with air bags (whether they were deployed or not) totaled 18 to 22 percent. (Essentially all occupants involved in these accidents wore their passive restraints.)

The Alabama statistics for the years 1994 and 1995 are very consistent, an so the hazards of air bags merit further investigation.

Shafik E. Sadek

Mobile, Ala.

Letters must be signed and include your address and telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to: "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115; fax to: 617-450-2317; or e-mail to: OPED@CSPS.COM.

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