Efficient light bulbs well worth the fee
The Sun's article "Efficient-bulb plan has a short circuit" (Jan. 11) seems to suggest customers should not have to pay utilities to provide free or discounted energy-efficient bulbs. That idea couldn't be more wrong.
Putting aside environmental considerations (I'll come to those in a minute), Maryland utilities are facing the dual challenges of looming electricity shortages and inadequate power lines.
It's not possible to build power plants or power lines quickly. But just as an individual faced with a shortfall in his or her budget can limit expenses, we can limit consumption.
Using efficient light bulbs saves energy directly because they use less than one-quarter of the electricity of conventional light bulbs. These bulbs also save on air-conditioning during peak energy usage summer hours because they run much cooler.
From an environmental prospective, using energy-saving lamps means less coal mined through mountaintop removal or dangerous deep coal mining, less land pollution from fly ash, less air pollution and fewer emissions of the gases that cause global warming.
Maryland has no better power alternative than conservation.
Generating more electricity from hydropower is not a good option in our area.
The sites in Western Maryland where wind power is an effective option are limited to ridge tops. As for nuclear power, we still haven't solved the problems of where to put the nuclear wastes and how to make the plants invulnerable to terrorists.
Replacing conventional lamps with energy-saving lamps is a good and effective first conservation step. Consumers can save far more on their energy bills than they will pay for this program.
The writer is a volunteer for the Sierra Club and the principal of a conservation engineering firm.
If Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is going to add a charge to our power bills to pay for discounts on energy-efficient light bulbs, I certainly agree that it needs to make a greater effort to make the discounted bulbs available to everyone. However, if properly implemented, I wholeheartedly support this sort of program. It is a pleasant reversal of business as usual.
Normally, we pay extra taxes to artificially lower the price of energy through government subsidies to the oil and gas industry and military expenditures to help secure our access to oil.
So even though I bike to work every day and rarely purchase gasoline, I pay extra taxes so people can get in their SUVs and drive three blocks to the grocery store every other day more cheaply.
But in addition to greater distribution of efficient bulbs, I would suggest that the fees that pay for the program be converted into a per-unit-of-use consumption surcharge.
This would give people more incentive to conserve energy.
And that way, the more lights the guy down the street leaves on all day and night, the easier it would be for the rest of us to get cheap fluorescent bulbs and reduce our energy bills.
As more people got the bulbs, their energy bills would go down and they would pay fewer surcharges; the program would adjust to an appropriate size automatically.
Instead of protecting people from the consequences of their wasteful choices, we would be forcing them to do their part for the environment and encouraging them to live more efficiently.
Restoring oysters does boost the bay
In the editorial "Where the bucks stop" (Jan. 13), The Sun's editors suggest that one bay-related program is more valuable than another, pitting the crab research program at the Center of Marine Biotechnology against the Oyster Recovery Partnership.
This evaluation is unfortunate; while research is important, bay restoration efforts are equally valuable, especially during times of tight budgets.
With support from Maryland's congressional delegation, nonprofit organizations such as the Oyster Recovery Partnership have enhanced the native oyster population and improved the valuable ecosystem services they provide through in-the-water restoration efforts.
The oyster program has planted more than 1 billion oysters in the bay since 2000, with a majority planted on permanently protected or heavily managed oyster bars.
While some of those oysters are being enjoyed by Marylanders at local restaurants, the vast majority are still in the bay, busy filtering dirty waters while providing valuable habitat for the blue crab.
Dr. Torrey C. Brown
The writer is chairman of the Oyster Recovery Partnership and a former secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Past time to abolish cruel death penalty
According to The Sun, 57 percent of Marylanders favor the death penalty while 33 percent would ban it ("In Md., most want option of execution," Jan. 15).
The 33 percent are in good company, as Helen Keller, Dorothy Day, Eleanor Roosevelt, Presidents Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter, Albert Einstein and the Rev. Martin Luther King - all great Americans - also opposed the death penalty.
They all recognized, as do I, that the death penalty is, by its very nature, arbitrary, racist, premeditated murder.
It is permanently broken and cannot be fixed or made fair.
The time is past due for our state to follow New Jersey's lead and abolish the death penalty.
Gerald Ben Shargel
Murderers merit a painful death
I am truly sickened and disgusted when I pick up the newspaper and read about the murderers whose execution would be "cruel and unusual punishment" ("Queries fly in death penalty case," Jan. 8).
As the sister of a murder victim, I will never believe that putting a monster to death, especially by injection, is "cruel."
My sister was murdered approximately two years ago. She was 63 years old. She was a sister, mother, daughter, aunt and grandmother who read her Bible and prayed every night. She never hurt anyone her whole life.
The person responsible for my sister's murder broke into her home late at night while my sister was sleeping. He beat her, stabbed her several times and then set her body on fire.
When he was running out of my sister's home, he stabbed an acquaintance in the neck. Fortunately, the second person did not die and was able to identify the murderer.
The person who murdered my sister and tried to murder another person will be eligible for parole in 25 years. He was on probation for other crimes when he stabbed my sister to death.
Why should he be allowed to live? And if he did receive the death penalty, which is what my family wanted, why should his death be painless?
My sister wasn't given that choice.
When is the law going to get real and stop screwing around with innocent people's lives?
Why do other taxpayers and I have to support this slime in jail?
Why do I have to even worry about him being released someday and doing this to someone else and their loved ones?
It's just not fair.
Tax hikes help fund the services we need
I have been following the debate about Maryland tax increases and have been very surprised by the letters written opposing any state tax increase.
When I drive through Maryland, I see schools, roads, libraries, courthouses, jails, prisons, parks, medical centers, etc.
And if there is a fire, the fire department arrives. If there is an accident, an ambulance arrives. If there is a crime, the police arrive to investigate.
But just as the costs of maintaining our homes and cars have increased, the costs for state and local governments have increased. So which services would those who oppose tax increases want to do without?
I don't want to pay for corrupt or inefficient government, but I do accept the reality that I want and depend on government services.
I recommend that the state provide remedial civics lessons for those Marylanders who don't understand their responsibilities as citizens.
It really isn't all about me; we are in this together.
We need to accept the unpleasant reality that there is a price to be paid for living in a civilized world.