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Caring for the Environment

In the Opinion page article "Government-Imposed Energy Efficiency - a Bad Idea," June 30, the author does not consider two fundamental aspects of the American economy.

First, he does not recognize the common-sense notion that "there is no such thing as a free lunch." The utilization of any resource always bears a cost, although not always in monetary terms. Because the market lacks a mechanism to measure the cost of using the atmosphere as a garbage dump, polluters can contaminate our air free of charge.

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Second, despite its potential for profit, market forces will not naturally draw investors into the use of renewable energy sources for two reasons. One is the huge start-up costs in the environment of an unchartered and capital-intensive market. The other is that the structure of the US economy motivates firms to acquire short-term profit instead of setting goals for economic vitality in the long term.

Since our "free" market does not perform in a perfect manner, the intervention of an outside agency - in this case the US government - is a necessity if we are to insure the long-term health of our economy, and of the generations to come. Michael Toppa, Santa Cruz, Calif.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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