A false hunger

Regarding "Bachmann, back from Alaska, urges more domestic drilling" (July 23): U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann doesn't seem to understand the subtle difference between need and want (describing the untapped Alaskan energy resources as a locked pantry filled with food while children go hungry). Perhaps a better analogy would be a locked medicine cabinet filled with morphine in a room full of addicts.

Let's tend to the real needs of our children and provide a livable planet for their future that doesn't involve destroying our environment.


A shallow solution

Forget trying to get our teenage boys to read; for the moment we need to focus on Rep. Michele Bachmann. Specifically, she needs to read the reports of every respected scientist and economist who has discussed the possible results of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Outer Continental Shelf. The consensus is very clear: Drilling in these locations would do next to nothing to lower the price of gas.

First of all, it would be years and millions of dollars before we were to see a drop of oil from either of these locations.

Second, and more important, Republicans wish to make us believe that oil drilled domestically would flow directly into American gas pumps. That is not the case. Oil, like many commodities, is part of a global market. The best estimates suggest that oil production from drilling in ANWR would lower oil market values less than 1 percent and that the oil would be gone in less than a year. So, perhaps seven to 10 years down the road, we would lower gas prices by maybe 4 cents a gallon, for about 10 months.

It's time politicians stop trying to distract us with shallow, quick-fix solutions and do some deeper research into realistic options, even if it means some of us are going to have to give up those SUVs.



Cost just one concern

The July 22 Fixit note ("How much does hybrid save on gas?") applied good math to the wrong question, hence the answer is misleading. For the sake of argument, let us accept the assumptions made in answering the question, "Will gas savings pay for the cost of a hybrid car?" But the conclusion, "... it would take just over 13 years for the car to pay for itself in gas savings" is true, but alas, irrelevant.

You wish to purchase a new car. Will you choose a hybrid? Accept the notions that the hybrid will get 45 miles per gallon, you will drive 15,000 miles per year and gas costs $4 a gallon. Thus, as claimed in Fixit, the annual cost will be $1,333. Suppose instead, you purchase a nonhybrid vehicle that gets only 25 miles per gallon, but also is driven 15,000 miles per year. The annual cost? $2,400, or $1,067 more than the hybrid. No more assumptions are necessary to help you make the purchase, if your decision is driven only by dollars. Simply note how much more the hybrid car costs and estimate how many years you will drive before you trade again. If the annual cost savings multiplied by the number of years the car will be driven is less than the additional cost of the hybrid, you might choose to purchase a nonhybrid car.

Of course, at least one more assumption should be factored in: In the example, the decision was based strictly on personal economics rather than a concern for the environment. The choice is ours to make.



It's civilian-controlled

As an ex-U.S. Air Force officer, I am disturbed by the public comments of Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. On national news, Mullen disparaged the idea of withdrawing troops from Iraq as "dangerous" and "not advisable."

Hello? Did I just wake up in another country? For the last 232 years the U.S. government has operated under the policy that our civilian leadership exercises control over our military. This is one way that we prevent tyranny right here in these United States. Our military, when appropriate, is employed to further the national policy goals determined by our civilian leadership. The military does not determine what those policy goals are or should be.

Mullen has cannonballed into the "I make policy" pool with both feet. One of the first orders of business after Barack Obama is elected president should be to find a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, one who understands the concept of civilian control over the military.



Xcel's makeover

I am continually blown away by the amount of money that is being spent on the upcoming election for commercials and ads condemning each candidate. Then, this week, I learned that the Republican National Convention has construction crews beginning a multimillion-dollar, six-week makeover of the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul

People are starving to death, our infrastructure and economy are a mess, businesses are failing -- does this not bother anyone else?



It merits planetarium

One hundred and fifty years ago, this state was founded with the slogan "The Star of the North."

Now we are trying to decide whether or not to build a planetarium, for which the projected deficit is expected to be around $600,000 per year.

While that may seem to be a lot of money, it needs to be put into perspective. Hennepin County has more than 1.2 million residents, making the subsidy work out to 50 cents per resident per year. I can't buy a bag of French fries for 50 cents.

If the state whose slogan is "Star of the North" can't find a way to fund a planetarium that will bring visitors downtown for 50 cents per person per year and give our kids a museum for the 21st century, then something is seriously wrong with our priorities.



Play it straight

The July 22 headline regarding the Petters purchase of magazine assets from Metropolitan Media was very unfair to the Petters organization. The inflammatory headline demonstrates that the staff of the Star Tribune business section is either underinformed about the common structure of asset acquisitions or is participating in some odd form of activism better suited for the opinion page.