Readers sound off on rising gas prices, the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and the politics of trophy hunting.

Published April 8, 2005 8:02PM (EDT)

[Read "Turning Neocons Green," by Amanda Griscom Little.]

When Thomas Friedman says Americans would willingly pay $4 per gallon for gas, he should listen in on conversations in my social circle. We say we hope gas goes to $10 per gallon. The price increase will have be pretty drastic in order to get the attention of the wheelers, greasers and fleecers (that's the auto industry, the oil industry and the Republicans who are in their pockets), and all those clueless individuals who've never Googled "peak oil."

-- Judy Loest

There are a number of problems with the proposal to raise gas to $4 a gallon.

First off, a lot of people don't have the money to pay $40 every time they put 10 gallons in their Geo Spectrum. The fact that Friedman dismisses this through tax cuts shows me just how out of touch he is.

Second, local gas stations will take an even bigger hit on gas purchases made with credit cards than they already do, because the credit card companies take a percentage of each sale. The stations' profits won't increase, but their fees will. Plus, the pain at the pump will leave customers with less money to spend on other things in gas station convenience stores.

To me, this just seems like another example of someone at the top of the economic pyramid telling the rest of us how they will make our lives better.

-- Brian Bischel

I applaud Thomas Friedman's efforts to push for greater energy efficiency in the United States as a way to change the world. If more journalists, politicians and business leaders would speak up, we might actually make some progress -- and we have a long way to go!

With regard to certain energy issues, however, Friedman's logic is flawed. Not once in his interview did he mention the effect of the peak in global oil extraction and its effect on oil prices. Even if the United States cuts its demand in half, rising demand in other countries -- especially China -- coupled with the peak and then decline of oil production is going to send prices ever upward. What we're seeing with oil prices now is likely just the beginning of that process, as most experts say the peak in oil extraction will occur sometime this decade. Friedman, however, seems to think that we have an infinite supply available.

It's also interesting to note that he mentioned solar energy only once, to say that he looked into it for his personal home but that it wasn't feasible. And he shows ignorance about how he heats and cools his house. He uses a geothermal heat pump, which is not the same as using geothermal power. (His heat pump uses the ground as the source or sink for heating and cooling his home, but the power to run the heat pump comes from his electric utility, which mainly burns coal and natural gas.) Yes, it's a very effective way to set up a heat pump, but it's not renewable energy.

Finally, his attitude about nuclear power is disturbing. He can sit there in New York and Maryland and dare to tell the people of Nevada that, whether it's safe or not, they're going to have to take all the country's nuclear waste. This despite the recent revelations about data fabrication among the scientists working on the studies for the waste site.

-- Allison Bailes

I find it amazing that Thomas Friedman suddenly thinks he came up with this great idea on linking national security to the environment. In the last presidential campaign, even as far back as the summer of 2003, John Kerry made this link an integral part of his platform. Not that the media noticed, but one of the best-received lines of his stump speech was "No American soldier should ever have to die for Middle Eastern oil" before launching into a speech about energy independence.

In July of 2004, Kerry called on U.S. citizens to support a multibillion-dollar project aimed at ending dependence on Middle Eastern oil, with the aim of ending our entanglement with authoritarian regimes and the terrorists trying to topple them. True, he didn't call for a gas tax, but one would have to be an idiot to do so in the middle of the campaign.

I still have my green Kerry T-shirt reading "Energy Independence = National Security." Was I the only one listening?

-- Daniel Dennison

Thomas Friedman has a good idea, but it is not new. For more than 15 years, voices on the progressive left have been calling for a shift to alternative energy sources and reduction of dependence on oil from despotic regimes.

I credit Mr. Friedman for bringing this idea to the pages of a mainstream newspaper. Unfortunately, it will not work, because our president and his administration simply do not give a shit. Mr. Friedman is correct -- Bush has never asked Americans (except our soldiers) to do anything hard, and I don't believe he will start now.

-- Ben Siegel

[Read "Afghaniscam," by Susanne Koelbl.]

I would like to set the record straight with respect to Susanne Koelbl's March 30 article titled "Afghaniscam."

The article made it appear that I viewed the U.S. government's efforts to rebuild Afghanistan as a "crazy plan." Nothing could be further from the truth. In the 30 months since the Taliban was driven from power, what the Afghan people have achieved is little short of miraculous.

But don't take my word for it. Ask the 3.5 million Afghan refugees who have returned to their homes if they think it is "crazy." Ask the over 8 million Afghans who voted in the October elections, or the 600,000 farmers USAID has trained, or the tens of thousands of people who have gone to work repairing roads and irrigation canals. Ask the people who drive on the new Kabul to Kandahar highway or on any of the new provincial roads USAID is building. Ask the hundreds of thousands of Afghan girls who have schools to go to, books to read, and teachers who are now trained to educate them. Ask the people who rely on the 247 health clinics that USAID has rehabilitated and the 25 new ones that we've built. Ask the parents of the 9.9 million children who've received polio vaccines, or the 30,000 women who got business training, or the 10,000 families in the countryside who've received micro-credit loans, or the 34,000 militia members we're helping reintegrate into Afghan society.

This is but a fraction of what's happening in Afghanistan, and much, much more is in the pipeline. We encourage Der Spiegel and Salon.com to come to Afghanistan, talk to these people, and see for yourselves what this wonderful country has achieved in the past three years.

-- Patrick Fine

[Read "It's Lock 'n' Load at U.S. Fish and Wildlife" and "Trophy Hunting by Remote" in War Room.]

While I am not a fan of superfluous trophy hunting or shoot-by-wire Internet butchery, I am a hunter and a progressive Democrat. To my ears, your recent posts in War Room have an inherent anti-hunting slant that is not necessary to critique Bush's appointment to the Fish and Wildlife post or the Internet hunting scheme in Texas. These things could have easily been trashed without making all hunters look bad.

A prime example of this is your use of "Dove Marsala" as an example of things you can learn how to make on the trophy-hunting Web site. As you may know, doves are the most popular of all game birds and the most commonly hunted animal in the United States. Dove hunting is a mainstream sport that is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of families every year, yet you lump it in with worldwide trophy collection and Internet hunting in Texas.

Additionally, your contention that there is something inherently wrong with appointing a hunting enthusiast to the Fish and Game post is also unfounded. Just because the man that Bush appointed might have conflicts of interest does not mean that other hunting enthusiasts from organizations like Ducks Unlimited wouldn't make great heads of Fish and Game. Hunters have a long tradition of being environmentalists and conservationists in the truest sense of the words, and you make them all look like quacks.

-- Seth Hannah

I saw the headline, and thought: What's the big deal? I am very happy that organizations like Ducks Unlimited spread the environmentalist message in places it might otherwise not reach. But D.U. and looking for that 15-point stag is one thing. Hunting an endangered species with only a few thousand remaining members is something else. Ugh. I see your point and agree. I only wish you'd make an explicit distinction between ordinary trophy hunting -- getting the big rack on the wall, say -- and the perverse pleasure in killing genuinely rare species. Ugh, I say again.

-- Peter McIlroy

By Salon Staff

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