The Debate on Clean Energy
While Michael Grunwald's article on the emerging ethanol industry was both chilling and truthful, it's damaging to demonize the global effort to develop clean fuels as "myth," "scam" and "hype" [April 7]. It is no myth that thousands of scientific teams are working feverishly to create biofuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and biobutanol from nonfood plants grown on land unsuitable for food production. We could not have landed on the moon without first launching at Kitty Hawk. We are getting better at this every day.
Face it: there's no one fuel panacea, and in the final analysis, humans will have to scale back their numbers in order to live within a finite fossil- (or even renewable-) fuel world. And good luck with that.
William L. Seavey,
Your cover story provides a distorted, inaccurate picture of biofuels. The overwhelming body of data demonstrates the carbon benefits of biofuels. For every unit of energy it takes to make domestic biodiesel, 3.5 units are gained, giving biodiesel the highest energy balance of any liquid fuel. In 2007 alone, biodiesel's contribution to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions was the equivalent of removing 700,000 passenger vehicles from America's roadways. The U.S. biodiesel industry strongly opposes rain-forest destruction and nonsustainable agricultural practices. Biodiesel increases our renewable-energy supply, adds well-paying, green jobs to the economy and reduces carbons and other emissions. I am proud to work in an industry that addresses these critical issues facing our nation and world.
Joe Jobe, CEO, National Biodiesel Board,
Jefferson City, Missouri
Every knowledgeable agriculturist knows that there is a plant with very high methanol content that grows well on land already too desalinated to grow food, which actually rejuvenates its host soil a little with every crop: hemp. Planting the 30% of our planet's arable land that is already too desalinated to grow food with hemp for the next two decades would give us plenty of biofuel without interrupting vital food production.
What am I supposed to tell my two young children after reading about the agrifuels debacle? "Kids, we've probably got about five to ten years left. Don't worry about the environment it's too late"? You report that we are still mowing down precious jungle in 2008. Monkeys are smart enough not to do that. If deforestation continues at this rate, then I'd like to register a word anthropocide: to knowingly eliminate the human species.
Merewether, New South Wales
Remember basic high-school science, where an electric current passed through water produces hydrogen and oxygen? Get the electricity from solar power, collect the hydrogen to use as fuel, and carbon doesn't even enter the equation. Honda, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and BMW have new models that run on hydrogen, but we don't see much enthusiasm from governments. Is it because hydrogen, being so simple to generate, could be too difficult to tax?
I hope you will delve deeper than your glossed-over fairy tale about Barack Obama's upbringing and take up his invitation to address the substantive issues presented in his biography [April 21]. The article neglects to mention that Obama's father had children by four women and that he abandoned each of them. Its odd statement that S. Ann Soetoro "decided not to follow" Obama's father back to Kenya neatly overlooks the fact that he was returning to Kenya (and his Kenyan wife and children) with an American woman whom he had met in Massachusetts after he left Ann and Barack in Hawaii and who became his third wife. Had you set out all the facts, you might have meaningfully addressed some important issues related to race and culture. But such a study would require a frank discussion. Who will take up Obama's invitation to have one?
Pittsford, New York
I suggest TIME give up the charade and change the name of the magazine to Obama Weekly. The timing and tone of your story on Obama's mother made it appear more like a campaign p.r. piece than a legitimate news story. Something tells me I should not hold my breath waiting for soft-focus, warm-and-fuzzy stories about the mothers of Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
Joe Klein writes that avoiding discussion of patriotism "is a chronic disease among Democrats, who tend to talk more about what's wrong with America than what's right" [April 14]. Playwright David Mamet recently abandoned his lifelong allegiance to the Democratic camp, saying its worldview could be summed up thus: "that everything is always wrong." This totally negative attitude will be the Democratic Party's downfall unless it can return to a more centrist position.
Joop van der Lijn,
Palmerston North, New Zealand
Farewell to a Hollywood Legend
My thanks to Richard Corliss for his appreciation of Charlton Heston [April 21]. If anyone under 40 wants to know why their older friends and relatives have such low regard for today's generation of Hollywood actors, Heston is one reason. He was a symbol of how America thought of itself: energetic, courageous, practical, resilient. No one in Hollywood can take his place.
De Pere, Wisconsin
General David Petraeus' testimony before Congress reiterated what many military and political experts have been saying for several years: a military victory in Iraq is not possible, and because the political environment is so fractured by sectarian differences, a political victory remains questionable [April 21]. The Bush Administration never understood the culture and did not study the history of the Middle East. U.S. forces are basically a Christian army waging war in an Islamic country. That was, is and always will be a formula for disaster. We should withdraw and let the Iraqis settle their sectarian differences without outside interference.
Los Gatos, California
Infinite accolades for the valiant wildlife conservationists who are striving to safeguard the intelligent, sociable and lovable bonobos in the perilous Congo [April 21]. If they do not succeed, it will be imperative to relocate endangered bonobos to safer havens and sanctuaries to ensure their survival.
Go South, Dude
As a reader who has just turned 21 and a Colorado native, I was excited to see Joel Stein's article on breweries in my home state [April 21]. I was disappointed, however, to find that the story makes no special mention of even one brewing company south of Denver. The state's capital may be considered the "Napa Valley of Beer," but our "playland of tasting bars" doesn't end at the city's limits.
Ben Stein vs. Darwin
Here we go again: Ben Stein, a really bad scientist and mediocre economist, feels intelligent-design proponents have been slighted [April 21]. I will state the point again: scientists are uncomfortable with I.D. because it is a warm, fuzzy belief unprovable by any scientific method. Maybe Stein would like to propose a scientific methodology to prove I.D. It would have to be a doozy.
New Hartford, New York
If you accept the theory of evolution, you accept that our genetic makeup, physical appearance and brain capacity are all related to our endeavor to survive and reproduce. Plants did not need legs to survive, and fish did not need hands. Humans, on the other hand, have a sophisticated brain that far exceeds what they need to survive and reproduce. I would like to see scientists research the brain capacity that various species need. If humans alone have evolved with capacities that far exceed what they essentially need, then intelligent design needs to be part of the story for us humans.
Allen A. Platt,
Rochester, New York