Mandating electricity conservation

Regarding your March 28 editorial "California flips a switch": While a significant electricity rate increase in California may have been necessary to stem cash bleeding by the state and its beleaguered electric utilities, I fear that the increase will not have the desired impact (forcing more conservation). As an example, when gasoline prices increased last year, we didn't see an exodus of commuters moving from their SUVs to mass transit. Similarly, when the weather warms up in Palm Springs, I seriously doubt that many consumers (or businesses) will actually forgo turning on the air conditioners to save a few dollars on the electric bill. We are creatures of habit and comfort.

The rate increase passed this week by the California Public Utilities Commission does nothing to address the fundamental problem - demand exceeds supply, and an aging power delivery infrastructure can't properly balance the distribution of whatever electricity is available.

Until supply and demand are brought into some sort of equilibrium, California consumers, and the Western US in general, will continue to be subject to the whims of the market. The only near-term remedy to avert prolonged and painful power outages this coming summer is forced (and enforceable) conservation mandates for all classes of electricity consumers.

Richard Cowles Penns Grove, N.J.

Your March 28 editorial "California flips a switch" states, "Raising rates will make up for that mistake and help balance supply and demand in the electricity market." Whose mistake? The consumer's? No. The politicians'. And now, we, the people, are forced to pay for the folly. Your editorial sounds like something from the former Soviet Union: " ... but it's the only way to force Californians to conserve...." Force? In a free market people pay for what they consume.

It's not against the law to use electricity and to decide one's lifestyle. It's not the government's role to control "the pursuit of happiness" nor to make it too expensive to use the technology science has made possible.

Ed Specht Cambria, Calif.

More police needed in schools

Thank you for your excellent March 28 editorial "Teens talking threats" about the problems school districts are facing to stop school shootings and emphasizing the dangers of making verbal threats of physical harm.

One approach that school districts should consider would be to place police (perhaps non-uniformed) on school campuses. Placing police officers in schools will reduce the level of anxiety that many parents face. In addition, alert community police officers who are experienced in dealing with young people will be able to identify potential problems early on - and assist troubled young people with their problems before they mushroom.

It's better to be proactive, not reactive. The federal government could assist localities by increasing funding for community/school police programs.

Paul Feiner Greenburgh, N.Y.

Advertising vs. savings

I was struck by the chart under the March 26 article "Keeping track: household savings" which showed France with the highest savings rate, and New Zealand with the lowest.

What struck me was the neat divide between non-English-speaking nations at the top (France, Belgium, Japan, Italy, Germany) and English-speaking nations on the bottom (Canada, UK, Australia, US, New Zealand). Is this evidence that the English language advertisers have a leg up on the competition?

Robert Duniway Seattle

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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