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Is Democracy the Loser in the Economic Race?

Regarding the article "Regulatory Tide Ebbs and Flows," Sept. 19: Nobody likes regulation, nor is it the solution to every problem. But regulation doesn't occur unless the need arises; nor does it happen without an active constituency behind it. The president's Council on Competitiveness has an active constituency behind it, too - industry, whose self-interest hardly qualifies it to be an arbiter of one of the major societal dilemmas of our age: how to balance the desire for economic growth with the desire for safety, health, and environmental protection. The Council on Competitiveness is an unelected body operating behind closed doors - and wreaking havoc with the regulatory mechanisms that have been developed through years of political debate, compromise, and democratic input. If the only way the US can compete is through bypassing the proper democratic political channels and eroding the standards of health and safety that have kept this country a good place to live, then winning the economic race doesn't mean much. Katherine Griffith, Madison, Wis.

We're not running out of oil The article "Renewables and Conservation Are Finding a Place in the Sun," Aug. 27, is accompanied by a chart asking: "When do we run out of oil?" The answer given: "Oil consumption is growing at 2 percent a year. At that rate, US domestic petroleum resources would run out by 2007." The source is the Natural Resources Defense Council. The information is wrong. First, petroleum demand is down 3.9 percent for the first eight months of this year compared with last year. And 1990 demand was down 1.9 percent from 1989. Second, the US is not running out of oil. And neither is the world. New discoveries are made and thus additions made to proved resources every year. The potential for future reserve additions is also important, but the oil industry must be permitted to explore Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas if these resources are to be found and produced. New domestic oil and natural-gas resources alone cannot supply our needs. Conservation that makes economic sense and continued research and development of alternative energy sources also are needed. All three are important to our future energy security. Arthur E. F. Wiese Jr., Washington American Petroleum Institute

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A nuclear waste Regarding the article "Waste Disposal Core of Nuclear Power Shutdowns," Sept. 17: The owners of the Shoreham and Rancho Seco nuclear power plants have no choice but to pay the costs of decommissioning. The only source of funds is their ratepayers. This waste of ratepayers' money is a shame; they could have used it for schools, health, public transportation, or housing. Both of these plants were licensed and safe to operate. The vote at Rancho Seco was deliberately contrived to be confusing, and now the Sacramento Municipal Utility District must find capacity equivalent to almost 1 1/2 Rancho Secos before the end of this decade while a viable plant sits idle. A. David Rossin, Los Altos Hills, Calif.

Air 'waves' and social priorities The article "Aussies Catch Air 'Waves' on Boards 14,000 Feet Up," details the making of a Coca-Cola TV commercial costing almost $800,000. Does Coca-Cola really believe that it needs to create a new ad to promote its world-recognized drink? Just imagine what $800,000 could do, were $8,000 given to 100 social-service organizations, for example. When are we going to get our priorities straight? Donna Bartell, Amherst, Mass.

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