The Baltimore Sun

Increased drilling is a bogus solution

We have a serious problem with energy in this country, and a serious problem deserves a serious debate with serious solutions. However, it's an election year. And by emphasizing the need to drill for oil, Republicans have found a blunt stick with which to bludgeon Democrats ("Democrats scramble on oil," Aug. 5).

However, oil companies have all the active leases they need to produce more oil. The truth is that they've exercised their right not to utilize those leases.

Currently, more than 7,000 active oil drilling leases exist (and yes, that includes plenty of offshore leases). Nearly 80 percent of U.S. offshore oil reserves are available for drilling under active leases.

If oil companies aren't willing to pump more oil under these active leases, why exactly do we need to grant them more leases?

Democrats also have attempted to repeal the billions in tax breaks granted to oil companies by the Bush administration and redirect tax incentives to encourage exploring alternative energy sources. Congressional Republicans filibustered that measure, and President Bush threatened to veto it.

Republicans talk a big game about alternative energy, but their actions suggest that they have a serious aversion to it.

And even if new offshore drilling leases were granted, it would take a decade (or more) to begin production. It would take even longer for the oil produced to have any impact on prices: the U.S. Energy Information Administration recently concluded that new drilling would not have a significant impact on oil prices until at least 2030.

The truth is that our country is addicted to oil. We need policies that move us in the direction of a cleaner, more sustainable lifestyle - and a more sustainable economy.

We need some serious policy decisions to achieve this goal.

But again, it's an election year, and unfortunately we shouldn't expect too much seriousness in our debates.

David M. Blades, Columbia

Arrogant to leave energy bill undone

Congress' adjournment without passing an energy bill truly manifests the arrogance of power ("Democrats scramble on oil," Aug. 5).

I believe Congress is trying to teach the voters a lesson in conservation.

In November, I believe we need to teach members of Congress a lesson in politics.

Steven Nichols, Perry Hall

Democrats block new oil supplies

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. has decided that he will appeal the liquid natural gas terminal case to the Supreme Court.

And in The Sun's article "LNG case may go to high court" (Aug. 2), he is quoted as saying, "I'm disappointed that our federal energy policy is to be reliant on foreign sources of fuel. That's what this LNG project would do."

Has Mr. Smith been living in a cave? For months, the Democrats have been blocking every effort to do more drilling offshore along parts of the U.S. coastline and in Alaska.

If you wonder why we are dependent on foreign oil and gas, just think about that.

David Ledford, Fallston

Climate claims still controversial

The Sun's article "Climate report forecasts smaller, hotter Maryland" (Aug. 3) was flawed in a number of ways.

It made no mention of the fact that many other scientists disagree with the claims and conclusions of the report edited by Donald F. Boesch.

And it did not mention that Mr. Boesch is a marine ecologist, not a climate scientist.

While the article says the committee that created the report considered research done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international scientific body set up by the United Nations, it did not mention that the methodology and conclusions of the IPCC regarding global warming have given birth to a storm of opposing views among the scientific community.

Richard Seymour, Baltimore

Why is Parker hostile to Obama?

What exactly is it that Kathleen Parker doesn't like about Sen. Barack Obama ("Resisting the pull of Obama's orbit," Commentary, Aug. 4)?

She concedes that he is highly regarded by our allies overseas, that his redeployment strategy for Iraq is seemingly supported by Iraqi government officials, that he is an accomplished public speaker and that he is running a well-organized campaign while his opponent stumbles from one gaffe to another.

So what bothers her?

She uses code words and phrases such as "paying dues," "waiting their turn" and "let in at the front."

But if you read her column closely, it should be clear that what really disturbs her (and too many people like her) is that she thinks Mr. Obama is "uppity."

Dick Boulton, Ellicott City

Parole conditions must be enforced

Recent Sun articles have noted the serious consequences when judges fail to issue warrants for violation of technical parole violations or even new charges ("Sweep aims at the most dangerous," July 13).

But this really is not a new issue for anyone who has worked in the criminal justice system. Certain judges have long been known for their failure to issue violation of probation warrants until the probationer has been convicted of a new offense, even if the probationer has been charged with significant and ongoing technical violations of the order of probation, which is, in effect, the offender's contract with the court.

This is a serious concern in Baltimore, where criminals are frequently granted numerous postponements of trials for pending charges.

Some of these offenders are capable of committing a crime a day. Not all of these crimes are victimless, and not all of these crimes get solved.

The failure of judges to issue warrants when provided with compelling reasons to do so puts the community and even the offender at risk.

If a judge is unwilling to honor the order of probation, perhaps he or she should reconsider using probation as a sentencing alternative.

Edward McCarey McDonnell, Baltimore

The writer is a retired supervisor for the Division of Parole and Probation of the Maryland Department of Public Safety.

Extremist right is greater threat

In light of the recent shooting at a Unitarian Universalist church in Tennessee, we need to remember that right-wing domestic terrorism remains a significant threat to our culture ("Hatred could be shooting motive," July 29).

Going back to the early 1990s, many domestic and homegrown terrorists have been right-wing extremists.

If convicted, the Tennessee shooter would join Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph and anti-abortion terrorists on the right who have violently projected their hatred and bigotry on fellow Americans.

Yet in 2005 and 2006, Maryland state troopers decided that left-wing peace groups were dangerous enough to be subject to unwarranted surveillance.

According to The Sun, some of these nonviolent peace activists had their names submitted to national security agencies for terrorist database ("Review of state police is ordered," Aug. 1), which is a frightening reminder of the dangerous COINTELPRO program of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Yet right-wing extremists represent the real threat to Americans, not peace activists. But were right-wing groups targeted for surveillance by state troopers? The whole spying episode smacks of politics and wrongheaded priorities, and how bedrock American values have been steam-rolled at all levels in recent years.

James R. Karmel, Bel Air

The writer teaches history at Harford Community College.

Sculpture shrouds station's windows

Margaret D. Pagan points out, probably correctly, that the windows at Penn Station are a shameful mess ("Make Penn Station shine, windows and all," Commentary Aug. 4).

But I'm afraid that I never notice the windows because I am too distracted by something large that looms annoyingly in front of the station.

Judy Rhoades, Baltimore

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