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Letters to the editor

Monday, May 28, 2001

Energy prices rise. Capacity grows. And conservation occurs

Rising gasoline and natural gas prices and shortages of electricity constitute a crisis in energy supply in the energy-gluttonous United States. The Bush administration is suggesting what are said to be long-term solutions to the problem. Let me suggest that the proposals -- which are based in increased supply by building power plants and refineries as well as drilling more oil and gas wells and digging more coal in the United States -- are not really long term. They are short- or medium-term in nature.

The long term-problem is that fossil fuels are nonrenewable resources. Oil, in particular, will become increasingly scarce in the not-too-distant future. The selfish but necessary policy should be to use foreign oil as much as possible in the near term and to reserve U.S. supplies for the future.

Therefore, the tax structure should favor exploration for fossil fuels here -- and favor the use of supplies from other regions. Of course, with a two-term limit on the presidency and the customary changes of administration every few elections, the pols tend to have a short term view, leaving the real problems for future administrations.

Short term, nothing should be done about gasoline prices. In the interests of energy conservation, higher prices will discourage the use of a large vehicle for carrying one person to work and back. I fear, however, that there will be price reduction action to appease West Coast members of Congress and their biggie-sized SUV drivers. Only determination to do the right thing will induce people to drive sensible cars.

The crisis in power production is a natural consequence of deregulation of the industry. Why should power companies build facilities that are being used at a fraction of their capacity most of the time? Only regional agencies can place the convenience of the customer ahead of industry profits. In the long term, higher prices will lead to sufficient capacity and, one hopes, reduce consumption.

The hard-hearted, realist view is to do almost nothing, and certainly not to follow the policies of either of our major political parties.

Point Breeze

Everything's relative

Regarding the May 25 article "Gas Prices Putting a Crimp in Family Vacations": My wife and I just got back from Florida, a 3,000-mile round trip. I kept track of my gas purchases and found that we paid, on average, $1.63 per gallon. We used 96 gallons for a total of $156.

For past trips at $1.50 per gallon, this trip would have cost $144. If gas prices went to $2 a gallon, we would have spent $192. Even at these two extremes, we are looking at a difference of $48.

People making alternative vacation plans over such a sum may be overreacting a bit. Consider that $48 isn't enough to get you into the Epcot Center!

West Mifflin

Double standard

Well, well, well: So Vice President Cheney held a party at his official residence for 400 people who had given at least $100,000 to Republican causes ("Bush Helps GOP Raise $23.9 Million," May 23). Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't his official residence paid for with tax dollars?

Gee, wasn't former Vice President Al Gore criticized for soliciting contributions while in an official building? This is very similar: Using a taxpayer-supported place to reward major donors. I guess Vice President Cheney forgot about that.

Wilkins Township

Et tu, PG?

Finally! The public relations and human rights fiasco at the University of Pittsburgh regarding health care benefits for the same-sex partners of university employees seems to be coming to a head (" 'It's A Shame They Had to Drag it Out,' " May 23). The topic had dropped off the radar for the last few months and I was afraid that Pitt was going to drag its feet until the problem just went away. Thankfully, that's not the case and it appears that justice and fairness will ultimately prevail.

The problem that I have with the situation is this: After reading dozens of columns, articles and editorials written by your staff about this whole imbroglio, nearly all of them mention that the Post-Gazette in fact doesn't offer the very benefits that the whole Pitt ruckus is about. It seems to be a bit disingenuous to sit there, safely ensconced behind your desks, and squeal about the unfairness of the whole thing; meanwhile your gay and lesbian employees are being denied the same benefits that Pitt's gay and lesbian employees are being denied!


What if?

If anyone has posed the following scenario, I haven't heard it, nor have I heard how it would be resolved.

Joe and Bill, two middle-aged heterosexual men, live together. Joe is an uninsured, self-employed carpenter who works sporadically. Bill, an accountant, has worked steadily for years. Bill's company has a policy of providing health insurance for same-sex domestic partners.

Joe and Bill have mutual interests and get along well. Although both have girlfriends, they plan on never marrying. Bill wants his firm to cover Joe's insurance, claiming they are gay domestic partners. The bedroom is off limits to the prying eye. How can the company deny the request?

Why should Bill have to lie, anyway? Why do same-sex domestic partners have to be gay when the law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? And when the "gay" stipulation is exposed as being a sham, won't it open a can of worms and force companies to pay for insurance in all kinds of novel arrangements?

McKees Rocks

Good advice unheeded

Jane Blotzer's analysis of our nation's disastrous and counterproductive drug prohibition ("The Drug War Is Insane," May 20 Forum) was brilliant. I would add that almost half of the 1.5 million drug arrests annually are for marijuana and almost 90 percent of those are for simple possession.

In 1972 President Nixon had fellow Republican and former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond P. Shafer chair a blue ribbon panel to study marijuana laws. The Shafer Commission declared pot to be a relatively benign intoxicant whose use should be decriminalized. Nixon threw it in the trash.

Thirty years and millions of arrests later, perhaps we are finally ready to take Gov. Shafer's advice.


O'Connor losing respect

Tom Murphy and Bob O'Connor, shades of Gore vs. Bush. The votes in the mayoral primary have been recounted; give it up, Councilman O'Connor. This childish display only proves that you indeed are not fit to be mayor of Pittsburgh ("Appeals Court Has O'Connor Cooling Heels," May 26).

I was an Al Gore supporter until he started his recount fits in the presidential election. His actions clearly showed his true colors to his supporters and nonsupporters alike. Take a look: Mr. Gore has lost a lot of respect over the whole deal. You will too, Mr. O'Connor. You've already lost mine.


No good reason to move Frick archives, and many good reasons to keep them intact here

As the former director of the University of Pittsburgh Press, I worked closely with the writers of many nationally recognized books about the labor and industrial history of Western Pennsylvania, including "Triumphant Capitalism: Henry Clay Frick and the Industrial Transformation of America" by the British historian Kenneth Warren.

The Frick archives, held since 1919 at Clayton, Frick's Point Breeze estate, were extremely important to Professor Warren. I am deeply concerned that some of Frick's descendants wish to divide this extensive collection between Pittsburgh and the Frick Art Reference Library in Manhattan.

Presumably whatever correspondence and records deemed by the Fricks as appropriate for Pittsburgh would remain here. Even if the archives allocated to Pittsburgh are held by the University of Pittsburgh, as has been proposed, the artificial division of the original collection into tidy categories would be unworkable folly. The future of this effort is likely to be years of dispute about the proper location of overlapping correspondence and papers.

The Pittsburgh region offers to historians and others interested in Frick more conveniently located resources than elsewhere.

In addition to the extensive Frick papers at Clayton, the house itself is open to the public. The records of the United States Steel Corp. are in Butler County. Fifty miles southeast of Pittsburgh, the former coke region displays the remnants of the remarkable industry created by Frick -- coke ovens, company housing for workers, coal tipples and other mine structures. Frick's birthplace and childhood home at West Overton in Westmoreland is open to the public. The labor-oriented Coal and Coke Heritage Center at the Fayette County Campus at Penn State houses a labor-oriented collection of documents and photographs about the domestic and work cultures of the thousands behind Frick's success who mined the coal and tended the coke ovens.

Henry Clay Frick, a controversial but major figure in American industrial history, is a part of Western Pennsylvania. He lived in the coke region and Pittsburgh for more than half his life. His character was formed here and his fortune made here. Eighty-two years after his death, why divide the Frick archives between Pittsburgh and New York City?

Squirrel Hill

Editor's note: The writer was director of the University of Pittsburgh Press from 1964-1994.

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