The Baltimore Sun

Market incentives often aren't enough

In his column "New way to save the bay" (Commentary, Feb. 12), Robert Wieland suggests that a new approach must be taken as an alternative to standard command-and-control environmental regulations.

While I believe that market-based measures can play an important role in restoring the Chesapeake Bay, I also believe that regulation has an important role to play. Aviation offers a clear example of how this works.

Today's aircraft fly three times farther on the same amount of fuel than planes did 40 years ago. Because the amount of carbon dioxide emitted is a constant multiple of fuel burned, this equates to about a 70 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emitted per passenger-mile. These reductions are not the result of regulation but of the strength of market forces.

Fuel is a major expense for aircraft operators. Excess weight causes higher fuel consumption. As a result, manufacturers have an incentive to design more fuel-efficient aircraft and this reduces the amount of fuel planes must carry, saving their customers money.

In this case, the market works to reduce emissions.

Yet in the case of noise and most other engine emissions, this kind of incentive is absent. Because of this market failure, the significant reductions in aircraft noise and in other emissions are the result of federal regulations.

The law of supply and demand is absolute. How well it operates depends, however, on how the market is structured. And if the market does not provide appropriate incentives, non-market solutions may be necessary.

Howard Aylesworth, Baltimore

The writer is a former director of civil aviation environment issues for the Aerospace Industries Association and a board member of the Herring Run Watershed Association.

Not always practical to order texts early

I am a retired academic whose professional life was spent outside of Maryland, and I write now to warn against the shortsighted textbook policies The Baltimore Sun advocated for the University System of Maryland ("Burned by book prices," editorial, Feb. 13).

To require faculty to inform students of text selection far in advance or to require reuse of textbooks is not practical, and if adopted, such requirements can undermine effective teaching practices.

Responsible faculty members prepare by keeping abreast of the readings in their fields. They often cannot reasonably assign texts months in advance, especially when they teach different courses in different semesters.

In survey courses, which affect the greatest number of students, faculty may receive their course assignments days, not months, in advance.

Finally, even when faculty members want to reuse the same edition of a text, they may be thwarted because publishers do not keep older texts in print and titles are not reliably available secondhand in sufficient quantity.

Diane Willen, Catonsville

Verizon is responsible for failing customers

I was puzzled to see an attorney for the Communication Workers of America suggest that Verizon representatives had said to him that the company has too many workers and plans to offer early retirement packages to some of them ("Customers vs. Verizon," Feb.13).

It seems to me that Verizon has too many customers and not enough workers to take even minimal care of their needs.

In December, I had no phone service for incoming calls for a week and no Verizon DSL service for the entire month, before finally giving up in despair over the lack of help available and switching my account to another company.

I think it is high time for the Public Service Commission to hold Verizon accountable.

Elizabeth W. Goldsborough, Owings Mills

Fans are the victims of steroid scandals

Avid baseball fans should be insulted by David Steele's column "Baseball fans enabling sport to continue steroid debacle" (Feb. 16).

Fans are the victims here, not the problem. They spent their hard-earned money to see contests that were rigged by steroid cheaters.

Many of baseball's most cherished records are now meaningless.

Let's place blame where it rightfully belongs: on Major League Baseball and the players union.

Do not blame the victims.

Eugene Wu, Sparks

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