Storage is errantly presented as obstacle

Lee Schafer joins many others in believing the false paradigm that energy storage is necessary to utilize renewable-energy sources that vary in power over time (“Promise of power storage still lacks payoff,” Feb. 16).

The premise is simply not true. Utilities across the country — and the world — are cost-effectively integrating the output of renewable resources in their flexible generation mix to match the continuously varying demand they constantly have to meet. Even Xcel Energy in Minnesota is supplying more than 15 percent of the electricity its customers use from wind power alone — and at costs less than it would experience using a new gas-fired plant. MidAmerican Energy in Iowa will be supplying more than 40 percent of its electricity from wind power by the end of 2016. All without dedicated storage, simply by using the flexible generation they have on their systems.

Utilities know that the wind does blow and the sun does shine at predictable levels when they need power. The low cost of integrating variable resources into the generation mix continues to be much less than the cost of adding dedicated energy storage.

JOHN DUNLOP, Minneapolis



Screen, then pass that information to voters

Retiring judge Thomas McCarthy makes a good argument for a better judicial appointment process, up to a point (“The best way to pick a judge’s successor,” Feb. 18). While I don’t believe that elected or appointed officials should leave their posts early, except under dire circumstances, when the need arises voters should have the opportunity to elect the successor. Any emergency appointee should be allowed to serve only until the next election (special elections are just too expensive).

Voters should have the choice to vote for judicial candidates who have been thoroughly screened to meet all requirements of the position by a judicial selection committee. The full content of the committee review should be posted online and in newspapers, giving all voters the opportunity to make fully informed decisions.

The only certainty of a judicial appointment would be that the judge would reflect the values of the current governor and deny citizens an informed choice.




Similar to electricity in Roosevelt’s era

The Feb. 18 editorial about the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger states: “Focus on what’s best for American consumers.” I think that focus needs to be long-term. This is a critical juncture for America’s communication infrastructure. It’s an opportunity to correct past rulings that have weakened Federal Communications Commission control of our vital cable TV and broadband Internet services.

In her 2013 book, “Captive Audience,” Susan Crawford provides excellent background for these complicated issues. One key premise is that companies that provide the “conduit” to distribute cable programming should be separate from program producers. Otherwise, they will have a conflict of interest in providing cable service to competing producers.

Obviously, the 2011 merger of Comcast with NBCUniversal created such a conflicted company. Permitting a merger with Time Warner would compound this problem.

Crawford also compares what’s happening in cable TV and Internet service with the development of electrical distribution networks in President Franklin Roosevelt’s time. Just as with cable TV today, the giant players had divided up their market to eliminate competition. They served only areas that were the most profitable and left rural America without electricity.

Congress and the FCC need to revisit the concept that cable companies should be treated as public utilities connecting content producers to their audiences and customers to the Internet. This would dictate that before merging with Time Warner, Comcast should divest itself of content producer NBCUniversal.




Gender differences in pricing are realistic

As a recipient of the “Chartered Advisor to Senior Living” designation, I read with interest the Feb. 16 “Your Money” article on the higher pricing of long-term-care insurance for women compared with men.

In the article, National Women’s Law Center co-president Marcia Greenberger states: “It’s pretty simple, these discriminatory premiums now in effect should be terminated.”

Pricing of long-term-care policies is indeed migrating to gender-distinct premiums — not as a function of discrimination, but rather in recognition of the fact that women have a higher claims experience.

The result is that Greenberger confuses equal pricing with equitable pricing. That’s more than pretty simple reasoning; it’s actuarially sound reasoning. Equal or same-gender premium pricing would actually result in discriminatory pricing against men.

Gender-neutral policies still exist from several top-rated carriers. Women interested in protecting irreplaceable retirement assets need only look to find these favorably priced policies before they disappear.

Thomas R. Schwebach, Eden Prairie