- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Who’s got the power?

If the Blackout of 2003 has taught us anything, it is that “far too little new power generation has come on line, partially out of NIMBY-ism and partially from a misguided environmental ethos” (“The illuminating blackout,” editorial, Saturday).

The irony here is that with the greenies virtually halting the construction of new nuclear power plants to produce more electricity to meet our growing energy needs and stopping the construction of new transmission lines to carry that power because of junk science, pundits and politicians dare to ask, how could this happen?

Our information-driven economy, with its heavy use of computing and telecommunications equipment, becomes more dependent on electricity every year. Demand in New York has grown five times as fast as the state’s population and twice as fast as employment from 1980 to 2000. Yet, before the blackout, the hot debate in New York was not on how to meet New York’s energy needs, but whether to close the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County, with its much-needed 2,000 megawatts of juice — the equivalent of 20 percent of New York’s usual load.

This could happen because environmentalists have made us afraid of our own shadow. The phantom risks of nuclear power are small compared to the real health risks posed by the production, transportation and use of fossil fuels for power generation.

We don’t build new transmission lines despite a 1996 report by a National Research Council panel of scientists that evaluated 500 electromagnetic fields (EMF) studies and found “no conclusive and consistent evidence” that EMF causes any human disease.

The situation has gotten ridiculous, even for attempts at developing “renewable” energy. A proposal to build a wind farm in Nantucket Sound is being opposed by the liberal elites on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod because it would spoil the view.

According to the 2003 estimates from the Energy Information Administration, electrical demand from a growing economy will increase by 1.8 percent each year between now and 2025, a demand that will not be met by tilting at windmills.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

Track and confirm?

Tuesday’s editorial “Operation Red Tape” provided your readers with only half of the story. I would like to set the record straight.

U.S. Postal Service employees in Delaware have been working with Frankie Mayo since July to help her in her goal of providing air conditioners to our troops in Iraq. Initially, this involved only small numbers of air conditioner units that were shipped through the Bear, Del., post office. As Mrs. Mayo’s program, Operation Air Conditioner, grew larger, so did her shipments. Then, last week, with two shipments of up to 175 units each, Delaware employees contacted one of our international dispatch facilities to arrange for efficient ground transportation to that facility. Unfortunately, that was when Delaware employees learned that air conditioners could not be accepted for international air shipment because they contain a compressed gas used as a coolant. It was only with the greatest regret that we shared this information with Mrs. Mayo and let her know that we were willing to work with her to help find alternate means of shipping the air conditioners abroad.

The issue here is one of basic safety. Neither the U.S. Postal Service — nor any other of the world’s postal administrations — accepts compressed gas for international air shipment. We understand that most private-sector package carriers follow similar safety guidelines. The simple fact is that an incident involving compressed gases on an international flight could place an entire crew and its passengers at risk. That is a risk we do not want to take. That is why our hazardous material regulations are in place. They are more stringent than some, but without them, we believe the risks are just too great.

Mrs. Mayo is certainly justified in her confusion in learning that she could no longer mail items she had previously mailed without any problem. And, yes, we will accept responsibility for that confusion because we provided her with incorrect information about the mailability of air conditioners during her earlier shipments.

We applaud Mrs. Mayo’s initiative and concern for our military forces serving in Iraq. It was not our intention to interfere with her commendable efforts. In fact, we are proud that we were able to assist her to the extent that we did. However, once it was clear that doing so could have unintended safety consequences, we had no choice but to take the action we did.

Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. Postal Service has safely moved millions of pounds of mail to the brave men and women of our armed forces who are supporting that effort. We will continue to do our part to keep them in touch with their friends and loved ones back home.

AZEEZALY S. JAFFER

Vice president

Public Affairs and Communications

U.S. Postal Service

Washington

Your “Operation Red Tape” editorial hit my buttons. I thought freon had been banned 10 years ago because of the environmental concerns about holes in the ozone layer.

Wanting to register my concern and outrage, I called the postmaster general’s office in Washington.

It was incredibly enlightening.

The staff person asked, “Where did you read this about the air conditioners?” — I replied “The Washington Times.”

She said that they had been looking all over The Washington Post, but couldn’t find the article. I tried to explain that there was more than one paper in Washington, and The Times was the one that wasn’t all liberal all the time.

Then she said, “Didn’t the president bear some responsibility for all this?”

I was dumbfounded.

The U.S. Postal Service is subsidized, but it is not a government agency anymore.

So there you have it, the Postal Service response — direct from a person who would identify herself only as “Operator 10” — boils down to this: This is the fault of George W. Bush because he bears the ultimate responsibility for all government activities.

Of course, that Postal Service employee works and lives in the Washington area, probably is not a conservative-oriented individual and likely has union protection that allows her to identify herself simply as “Operator 10” instead of the more professional response one would expect from the office of a chief executive of any other organization.

Unfortunately, the Postal Service is the only way to send parcels to military serving overseas — APO addresses can’t be reached via FedEx or UPS.

Thanks for shining your light into the dark cupboard that the Postal Service has become — it will be interesting to watch all the bureaucratic roaches scurry back into the woodwork.

PATRICK ACER

Pittsford, N.Y.

The economics of trade

Hooray for Paul Craig Roberts for challenging the myth that the current job shift from the United States to Asia is free trade (“Trade no-think,” Commentary, Tuesday). As a business school graduate, I am an ardent believer in the advantages of free trade. However, the current environment of shifting engineering, service and finance jobs to Asia and India bears no resemblance to free trade. It’s good to see a nationally syndicated columnist raise this point.

The economic foundations laid down by Ricardo and Adam Smith do not describe today’s economy. I would like to see more prominent economists challenge the classic economic arguments that advocate free trade at any cost and develop an economic argument that accurately describes current events.

I work for a U.S. manufacturer of power-plant equipment, and it is virtually impossible for us to sell our goods internationally because of the high labor costs in the United States and the strong dollar. We only pursue the projects that are specified U.S.- or European-made goods only.

As a father of three, I worry that there won’t be any jobs in the United States for my children when they grow up.

Despite the weak job market in the United States, we continue to import skilled workers from other countries. A large and growing proportion of the engineers with whom I work are foreign-born. There aren’t enough technical jobs in the United States to employ our own children, but we continue to import skilled workers and give away these highly paid positions to foreigners.

No political party has the inclination or the will to challenge these practices. I think a third “Jobs” party advocating protectionist policies for U.S. labor would be a strong contender in the upcoming election — drawing support from both traditional parties. Every other country takes steps to protect its labor markets — we should reciprocate as a minimum.

DAVID EOFF

Dallas

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