Regarding "The Japanese way of keeping their homes warm" (Dec. 31): As an American resident of Japan for nearly 20 years, I read this article with particular interest but was dismayed to find the usual lamentations on how inconvenient it is to keep warm in Japan and that energy prices are too high. I visited the US in late November and sustained the usual culture shock when seeing how utterly wasteful and extravagant Americans are in their energy use. I have always thought Japan is far more advanced than the US in this regard, and this is manifested in Japan's energy efficiency.
So instead of snickering at Japanese heating and feeling smug about having thermostats, Americans might take a second look at their unnecessary central heating, SUVs, and other wasteful habits, and save a little of that oil for the future.
Rick Davis Ashigawa, Japan
Making use of alternative energy
The burning of coal to produce electricity will always lead to air pollution ("Pollution's purple haze is creeping over Dixie," Dec. 14).
Efforts to improve cleanup systems and the ability of plants to get more power from each pound of coal, while worthwhile, are up against the reality of the continuing growth in the demand for electricity. The resulting reliance on coal, oil, and natural gas - fuels that, to varying degrees, create particulates (soot), sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and ozone - is not a long-term solution.
While we cannot afford to close any of our fossil-fuel power plants now, we ought to be sure that we exploit alternative energy sources to the fullest to minimize the environmental impact of these power plants.
This might mean using more costly sources such as small hydroelectric plants or wind energy to meet increased needs. And it definitely means keeping our existing nuclear plants operating, which do not emit pollutants into the air and whose capital costs, in many cases, have already been paid for.
We in the South have learned the environmental costs of the economic good times we have been enjoying. While it is unacceptable to return to the days when there was a vast disparity in well-being between the South and the rest of the nation, it makes sense to work toward controlling prosperity's less attractive environmental consequences.
Paul J. Turinsky Raleigh, N.C.
Good millennium section on religion
Your recent emphasis on religion ("A thousand years of religion," Dec. 16) almost matches your education coverage. It was generally well-balanced and commendable. At times, however, I wonder if editorial policy doesn't center too much on personal implications of religious experience, to the neglect of its social, economic, and political significance or, more broadly, the ethical-moral precepts that guide nonobservant lives.
I find it useful to think of ethics as affecting personal conduct, while morals guide socially valued behavior.
Grant Hilliker Columbus, Ohio
You are publishing a remarkable newspaper. I've thought so for 30 years. The changes you have made in size and format are wonderful.
My latest praise is for the millennium section on religion. It almost constitutes a college course, while being eye-catching and having excellent writers.
The quality of your newspaper and its eye-catching appeal make me proud that I read it.
Nancy L. Calfee Cleveland, Ohio
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