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Oil development vs. caribou? Regarding the opinion article "The real cost of drilling" (Oct. 8): I imagine the author was well intended, but the basic framework of his argument is wrong: oil development vs. caribou. Both can and already do exist together. I work in the Kuparuk oil field where the number of caribou has increased since oil development began. Just two months ago I had to be careful when coming out of the module where I work due to the caribou and their calves which were resting under the main camp building.

I have waited patiently on a nearby road for a herd of caribou to cross over. We don't hunt them here so they have no fear of us. I have seen caribou resting under the production facilities in the field. In the 2-1/2 years I have been here I have seen caribou peacefully coexisting with our oil development.

Contrary to the implication made by the writer, it is not an either/or proposition. Brian F. Leach, Anchorage, Alaska

Social Security reform: No third option In "Social security flap: much ado?" (Oct. 20) you argue that "dipping into the Social Security surplus to help pay for other programs would have no effect on benefit checks or the program's overall fiscal health." Untrue. Customarily, surplus payroll taxes are spent while the obligation of repayment is shifted to future taxpayers. But future taxpayers' ability to repay depends on future wealth.

What matters is not the obligation to pay future benefits, but the ability to pay, measured in real wealth. If today's payroll tax surpluses are used to allow individuals to invest in stocks or corporate bonds, then real wealth is created for the future. If Congress and the president spend every dollar they get their hands on, the only possible Social Security "reform" will be staggering tax increases for future workers and poverty for future retirees. There is no third option.

Do we save or do we spend? That question, your statement's to the contrary, is more than merely symbolic. Andrew G. Biggs, Washington The Cato Institute

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