- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

First things first

It is quite unfair for Nat Hentoff to criticize the United Nations for not taking action while hundreds of thousands of Sudanese are being tortured and killed with the complicity of their government (“The disgrace of the United Nations,” Op-Ed, Monday). The United Nations is a busy place, and lately it has had to deal with what many nations consider a more important issue: the violence in Gaza and the destruction of several dozen homes.

There, the United Nations reacted quickly. On May 19, by a vote of 14 to 0, the Security Council approved Resolution 1544, which condemns Israel for the killing of “Palestinian civilians” (as many as 35 local Arabs, and seven Israeli soldiers were killed) and calls on Israel “not to undertake the demolition of homes.” In time, the United Nations will get to take up the problem in Sudan.

ALBERT ARKING

Potomac

Moore’s the pity

“Both liberal film director Michael Moore and the American head of the Cannes Film Festival jury said [Sunday] that the victory of Mr. Moore’s film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ at the French fest was not intended as a political gesture” (“Moore’s award,” Inside Politics, Nation, Monday). Right.

I’ll bet the judges would be hard-pressed to convince those competing in the documentary category that they wouldn’t have had a better chance at first place if Mr. Moore’s entry had been in the Joseph Goebbels propaganda division.

The competition, like some others, has been corrupted for political reasons. Once considered prestigious, the Palme d’Or has been degraded by competition judges. It’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened, of course — and it’s happened recently.

In 2002, the Nobel awards committee reached past Ronald Reagan to another former president, Jimmy Carter, as the person most deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. That committee announced, without being asked, that its decision was meant as an anti-American gesture. Mr. Carter could have shown some character by refusing the prize, but he didn’t.

I don’t know a lot about the Palme d’Or given to Mr. Moore in the land of mime, but I do know that it’s not as big a deal as it once was.

WILLIAM RICHARDSON

Virginia Beach

Thinking long-term on energy

James Hackett’s recent column on gasoline prices, the second half of “NIMBY pressures … and oil slicks” (Commentary, Monday), incorrectly cites “high-cost ethanol” as one of the reasons for the current price spike.

Mr. Hackett should be well aware that ethanol’s net cost is below that of regular gasoline in California, New York and the Gulf Coast. In other words, blending ethanol lowers the cost of producing a gallon of gasoline for these areas.

Ethanol also adds domestic supply to the fuel market — 6 percent in California and 10 percent in other markets — helping hold down the need for expensive imports. Simply put, ethanol helps reduce the cost of gasoline for consumers. Without ethanol, retail gasoline prices would be even higher.

Even oil companies agree. Valero Energy, the largest independent refiner in the United States, recently addressed the issue of required ethanol blending (the Clean Air Act oxygenate requirement) in California, New York and Connecticut to improve air quality, stating: “[I]f refiners were to remove the ethanol, overall gasoline supplies would be reduced, which would logically mean higher prices. … So at the end of the day, waiving the oxygenate requirement in three states will not have any beneficial impact on U.S. gasoline supply or prices.”

BOB DINNEEN

President

Renewable Fuels Association

Washington

In response to Monday’s “NIMBY pressures … and oil slicks”: While Tom Bray and Mr. Hackett make some valid points, they are missing the bigger scope of our energy crisis.

While we debate building new refineries and in drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as the panacea for our energy woes, the European Union is projected to supply half its residents with renewable energy by 2020. By then, I suspect, the United States will be scouring the globe for dwindling oil supplies, a time when ANWR could be used for an emergency.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham stated in March 2001 that “America faces a major energy-supply crisis over the next two decades.” Domestic oil will only artificially spare us this crisis. In the case of ANWR, it would give us a six-month oil supply. The fact is that, whether it’s now or later, the United States eventually will have to move to renewable energies if it’s going to survive as a nation. Currently, only 6 percent of U.S. energy is deemed renewable. The longer we wait, the sooner nonrenewable energy supplies run low, prices rise and the transition becomes more difficult.

With 40 percent of our energy needs dependent on a resource that will in the coming decades approach its limits, conservation and investments in alternative energies would be the most sensible long-term strategy.

CHRISTOPHER FERRI

Outreach coordinator

Carrying Capacity Network

Washington

Here’s a knave

The “Nobles and knaves” editorial Saturday rightly focused on the superlative charitable efforts of Okaloosa County, Florida, students in providing school supplies for needy Iraqi children. However, I suggest you name the shipper and place it in the “knaves” segment of your column.

The idea that the children can cough up $10,000 out of their own pockets but the shipper can’t foot a $2,500 contribution is absolutely abhorrent.

LESTER ARBO

Christian, Miss.

An unnecessary monopoly

As a representative of individual shareholders, Stephen Moore’s Commentary column on the unnecessary monopoly of the New York Stock Exchange was right on (“Who needs the NYSE?” Commentary, Friday).

I find it quite ironic that the New York Stock Exchange, perceived to be the center of worldwide capitalism, is a monopoly fighting competition by seeking to preserve the antiquated “trade-through rule.” American investors have paid dearly for decades, as a small group of millionaires known as “specialists” pocketed exorbitant profits from them because of the trade-through rule. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposal to allow investors the ability to opt out is a great first step toward providing real choices for investors.

Mr. Moore raised a second point that has received less media attention — the NYSE’s information cartel for stock-market data. The substantial revenues from this cartel have resulted in an inefficient allocation of resources, with above-market salaries being paid to executives and less return for investors through higher fees. Providing competition for market data will ensure that the fees are used solely for regulatory matters, and brokerage firms can then reduce fees for individual investors.

DANIEL CLIFTON

Executive director

American Shareholders Association

Washington

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