Regarding your March 30 article "Unlikely nomads: Senior single women take up life on the road": Being suddenly widowed a year ago with a nearly new 33-foot motor coach, I had some decisions to make. Though I had driven it, I found running it and caring for it daunting. More than once I walked away saying, "That's it." But thanks to a long-held desire to travel, as well as the encouragement of friends, I carried on.
The first escapade was just an hour down the road for some maintenance. Upon returning, backing into my RV port, I hit the eaves on the house. Devastated, I decided I'd sell the RV. Later, a friend commented that that was "just a rite of passage around here - think nothing of it. Some of the men have done it two or three times." Other discouraging incidents occurred, but each time there was a positive comment, answer, or instruction that helped me along.
Last November, on impulse, I canceled my plane ticket to my son's house for Thanksgiving. I pulled out the RV - kitty, tow car, and all - taking the scenic route from my home in Florida to Virginia.
I have now logged nearly 5,000 miles on my beloved "beast" and feel that I am just beginning. In February I met with 55 other single motor-homers for the first time. Later this month some of us are caravaning to a rally in southern Georgia. And as always there is the ongoing kindness and support of my friends in our community.
Regarding your March 31 editorial "Voters Aren't Energy Dummies": In recent ads, the Bush campaign has criticized John Kerry for voicing support of a 50-cent per-gallon tax on gasoline some 10 years ago. Instead, we should be criticizing Mr. Kerry, and the rest of Congress, for lacking the political courage to enact such a fee.
A 50-cent tax would have jolted consumers into demanding fuel-efficient vehicles, which US auto manufacturers were fully capable of supplying. It could have catalyzed a cultural shift from our gluttonous appetite for Middle East petroleum and toward energy independence. Furthermore, the taxes generated could have gone directly toward needed infrastructure improvements and alternative energy research.
Instead, we have seen a reckless shift toward monster trucks, gigantic SUVs, and pseudomilitary vehicles, each wasting fuel, crowding streets, and threatening safety. Now, two oil wars later, we find ourselves paying $1 per gallon more for gas, with all of it going to OPEC and the oil companies.
Regarding your March 29 article "After nuclear's meltdown, a cautious revival": The timing for the next generation of nuclear plants could not be better. Climate change worries threaten to put the brakes on new coal-fired plants. Natural gas has experienced price increases, making many new plants economically obsolete. Finally, alternative energy sources, which to some are politically correct, are incorrect for large-scale energy production.
The current fleet of nuclear power plants is running safely and efficiently. New reactors, some of which are already being built overseas, promise to be yet more economical. We are clearly in the midst of a nuclear revival and the beginning of the next nuclear era. The NRC has certified new designs, utilities have identified sites for new construction, and Wall Street is figuring out the best approach to financing. Indeed, as a harbinger to this renaissance, nuclear engineering enrollments are growing across the country.
Gilbert J. Brown
Professor of nuclear engineering, University of Massachusetts Lowell
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