Corn-based ethanol is not the best alternative energy
In response to the May 21 Opinion piece by Colin A. Carter and Henry I. Miller, "Hidden costs of corn-based ethanol": The authors write that diverting "corn from food to fuel could create unprecedented turmoil." Has anyone considered what the effects of climate change will be on our "corn belt"?
To base America's biofuel plans on the assumption that climate change will bypass our agricultural areas is essentially taking a gamble that there will be no droughts in the Midwest anytime in the near future.
If the climate change there is minimal, or even benign, that's fine. But if it isn't, then what happens?
Blue Springs, Mo.
Regarding the Opinion piece on using ethanol for fuel in the US, by Colin A. Carter and Henry I. Miller: Using ethanol for fuel has more carbon costs than were mentioned.
First, the piece did not include the amount of petroleum needed to make fertilizer, run the farming machinery, and haul the corn to the distillery.
Second, it didn't mention the energy needed to boil the fermented mash to separate ethanol from the water in which the fermentation occurs.
If Congress requires all motor fuel to be ethanol, petroleum imports might actually increase.
In response to the Opinion piece on ethanol: There is a much better solution for renewable energy: canola oil.
In Germany, many cars now use canola oil instead of diesel fuel. Farmers especially are taking advantage of this.
Using canola oil could eliminate the need to import oil from foreign countries. It would also remove the need to rely on refineries and long-distance transportation. Within 10 years, the US could become independent of fossil fuel for diesel cars and equipment.
Martin Diesel at first used peanut oil when he invented the diesel engine.
Bad Hall, Austria
Falling dollar won't boost economy
Regarding the May 21 article, "Dollar buying ever less of world's goods": I doubt that the falling dollar really will help the US economy. The US often imports products from other countries because it is not producing them itself, not because its currency is stronger.
While a weaker dollar may make some luxury goods less appealing, it is more likely to simply make the normal goods we purchase on a regular basis more expensive.
If this was the "free market" of a few decades ago, when the main exports and imports were to and from Europe, then the falling dollar would make a profound difference.
As it is, both the European Union and the United States are getting a significant amount of their imports from developing and newly industrialized countries, especially in Asia.
It's possible that the result of the falling dollar will be cultural, not economic. For example, Japan's economic success made "Eastern thinking" a popular addition to corporate management techniques, and was then introduced to the general population as well.
In the same way, the relatively stronger economic growth of Europe may inspire American companies to adopt European work ethos, including – dare we dream it? – 35-hour workweeks.
Just say no to drug wars
In response to the May 23 article, "Escalating drug war grips Mexico": Just as alcohol prohibition gave rise to criminals such as Al Capone, drug prohibition has spawned the violent drug cartels behind the wave of killings that are plaguing Mexico.
With alcohol prohibition repealed, liquor bootleggers no longer gun one another down in drive-by shootings, nor do consumers go blind from unregulated bathtub gin.
It's worth noting that Mexico's recent upsurge in violence began after an antidrug crackdown created a power vacuum among competing cartels.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón is benefiting politically from the violence. The drug war is perpetuated by the mainstream media's complicity in refusing to put so-called drug-related crime in context.
US politicians have proven particularly adept at confusing the drug war's collateral damage with drugs themselves. Drug prohibition finances organized crime at home and terrorism abroad, which is then used to justify increased drug-war spending. It's time to end this madness.
Policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy
Use trade to promote conservation
In response to the May 23 article, "Making the world safe for big cats": Alan Rabinowicz is a conservation hero who deserves many accolades for his hard work in the field; he has overcome many obstacles. In this article, one major obstacle mentioned was poaching, with the animal parts handed over to Chinese traders by Burmese villagers in exchange for much-prized salt.
As an ecologist, I also try to look for solutions, so I suggest: Why not provide salt to the local Burmese people in exchange for their services in wildlife conservation?
Enough salt in the local market would depress demand for illegal trade with China and perhaps reduce poaching pressures.
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