MAIL BAG

June 23 2008

MAIL BAG

June 23 2008

MAIL BAG

‘Being surprised by rising oil prices is like being caught off guard when the sun rises’

LOTS OF ENERGY, NO BRAINS

THE ARTICLE on the fallout from the high price of oil was fascinating (“After cheap oil,” Business, June 9). It’s too bad there wasn’t a paragraph or two on the positive aspects. Higher food prices might mean smarter choices, less driving might mean less pollution, rethinking suburbs may reduce urban sprawl, less driving kids around might result in more free-range kids. It will be a very hard transition, but it will result in a healthier society. It is a shame we have to be forced into making changes that make so much sense. Jane O’Neil, Calgary

IT ENCOURAGED ME to see the impending oil crisis given prominent coverage in your magazine because it is an issue that needs widespread attention. While your article may be denounced as fear-mongering by those in our society determined to maintain their luxurious lifestyle, I would counter that there is a simple, irrefutable logic to the peak-oil concern. No matter which way it is spun, the fact is that the world’s demand for oil, a nonrenewable resource, is rising every day. What perverse form of logic would determine this to be a sustainable energy arrangement? The barrel is not bottomless. At some unknown point, oil is going to cease to be a viable energy source, and this should be treated as an opportunity for profoundly positive change. As a 21-year-old, someday soon it will fall to my generation to address this situation. For the sake of all future generations, let’s hope we as a society possess the foresight and selflessness to find solutions before it’s too late. Curtis Smith, Cochrane, Alta.

BEING SURPRISED by the fact that oil reserves are falling and prices are rising is like being caught off guard when the sun rises each morning. All kinds of people have been predicting this would happen for at least the past 50 years. For just as long, just as many people have been advocating research and development of post-oil-age alternatives. The range of technically feasible possibilities is almost endless, ranging from better use of hydroelectric, solar, geothermal, and wind energy to new-generation nuclear, extracting vast supplies of methyl hydrates from below the sea floor, to fusion reactors powered by helium3 mined from the surface of the moon—a plan developed in detail by Apollo 17 astronaut

and geologist Harrison Schmitt. As Arthur C. Clarke once observed, we’re in no danger of running out of energy—but all too likely to run out of brains. Looks like we have. David Stover, Toronto

HIGH OIL PRICES will ultimately force large SUVs and light trucks off the assembly lines and increase the nation’s focus on mass-transit opportunities. Why are Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton and Oshawa not connected by high-speed, rapid-transit commuter trains? We allow governments to build new highways like the 407, then sell them off to foreign

investors instead of creating new non-automobile rail-transit facilities. With automobile companies encouraged by their fuel suppliers to build bigger and more profitable vehicles, it will take a gutsy federal government to begin to turn off the flow of oil from Alberta that is feeding the need of our southern neighbour. Better to take our Alberta oil profits and create new hydroelectric transmission lines from Quebec and Manitoba into Ontario and beyond for industrial use (and reduction of coal-fired plants) in Ontario and the midwestern U.S.

William Green, Burlington, Ont.

I HAVE A SIMPLE QUESTION : why is the price differential between regular and premium gas 12 cents a litre in Toronto while it is only six cents a litre in Halifax? Companies in Toronto are just gouging consumers whose cars require premium fuel. It doesn’t cost any

more to refine and ship to Ontario than it does to Nova Scotia. The answer to the question is pretty obvious: the oil industry does it because they can and no one is holding them accountable. The price difference between regular and premium gas in Ontario used to be only 10 cents but it has quietly increased over the last while, especially since stations now only post the price for regular. Christopher Churchill, Scarborough, Ont.

THE LUNATIC FRINGE would like to thank you for taking mainstream what some of us already know and are acting on. Now if you had only added the additional stressors of overpopulation, rogue capital and global warming to this picture you would have been even more accurate in what is going to be a much more depressing scenario. But I guess we still need to be able to get out of bed in the morning and smile lovingly to our spouses over our lattes and Chilean-grown fruit salads.

Dean Dreger, Qualicum Beach, B.C.

THE COVER of the June 9 edition is offensive to me. I find it to be insensitive to any person and their family who may take their own life. It trivializes depression, mental illness and the aftermath of suicide.

Margaret Youngblut, Lowbanks, Ont.

WHERE OUR WATER GOES

KUDOS TO Jonathon Gatehouse for educating the public about Nestlé’s thirst for “pure” profit at the expense of draining our aquifers dry (“Opening up the floodgates,” Environment, June 9). It amazes me that people willingly pay more for bottled water than gas. Because of the shameful actions of Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, business is more than “good to the last drop.” Governments should stand up to corporate control of water and develop a national water policy declaring water as a common good and basic human right for all. Although one may not be able to stop other industries from exploiting, mismanaging and/or polluting our water sources, one can certainly boycott or ban bottled water. It’s time to fill up on tap or Brita water in reusable, stainless steel bottles.

Barbara Frensch, Burlington, Ont.

AT THE RISK of introducing facts into an otherwise excellent frenzy of alarmism, there

are dozens of desalination plans worldwide that create potable water through desalination for about a fifth of a cent per gallon, and it’s only getting cheaper as technology evolves. There are not many things that are limitless, but seawater certainly comes close, and you can desalinate it almost for free, at least in consumer volumes.

Maybe you should find out who owns the St. Lawrence River, which at last count was pouring around 86 trillion gallons of our precious fresh water per year straight into the Atlantic Ocean. That works out to around 250,000 times the extraction by Nestlé. Philip C. Deck, Toronto

EVERYONE TAKES the attitude that bottled water is lost and gone forever, when it actually ends up in another aquifer sooner or later. Like that old Scottish joke where Jock asks Sandy to pour a bottle of Scotch on his grave and Sandy replies, “Certainly, but is it okay to pass it through my kidneys first?”

Sam Hisey, Don Mills, Ont.

THE FREY FRACAS

THANK YOU for doing the article on author James Frey (Interview, June 9). I don’t think I will ever watch, or listen to, Oprah again after how she treated this poor man.

Shirley Bonic, Regina, Sask.

IN MY OPINION, Oprah Winfrey tarnished her halo when she reprimanded Frey in front of millions on her TV program. He cowered on the end of the sofa as she belittled him in order to quash the criticism she was receiving for recommending his book, A Million Little Pieces, which was shown to contain a number of untruths. He was out of his element on TV and she took advantage of him. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the fact that the truth may have been distorted did

not detract from the pleasure it gave me. He is a terrific writer and doesn’t need Oprah in order to be successful.

Bob Thompson, Victoria.

EQUAL SCRUTINY FOR ALL

STEPHEN HARPER’S handling of the Maxime Bernier scandal is puzzling (“Maxime Bernier’s femme fatale,” National, June 9). Young Canadians looking forward to employment in law enforcement, securities trading, legal work and many other positions are required to present not only their resumés and academic histories, but to list the names of family and associates, all previous addresses going back to their childhood, and often more, so that applicants who may have links to crime maybe screened out. In many cases, a rejected applicant won’t even be told why their application was rejected—it could be a stepuncle with a lengthy criminal record, or a university housemate who joined a motorcycle club. How could it possibly be argued by anyone, let alone the Prime Minister, that the lives of our cabinet ministers, with access to classified information and national secrets and influence over our public institutions, including law enforcement and our judiciary, should be subjected to any less scrutiny? RyanKimber, Toronto

WAL-MART, PRO AND CONS

CONGRATULATIONS to Steve Maich for his excellent article about Wal-Mart (“What the numbers say about Wal-Mart,” Business, June 9). I have felt this way for years and am glad to see someone else does as well. Most Canadians must live on a skimpy income. Wal-Mart realizes this and caters to their needs. Build as many stores as you wish, Wal-Mart. Canadians will support you if your prices are right.

Keith Doyle, Trois-Rivières, Que.

Jimmy a long-standing Carter bravely truth stated about Israel’s nuclear weapons’

I am absolutely appalled at this transparent effort to suck up to a frighteningly wealthy and heartless corporation. People are opposed to Wal-Mart, not because of its “numbers” or the supposed “benefits of its business model,” but because of the harm it causes to small communities, small businesses, the environment and underpaid workers. One cannot just dismiss the first two concerns by saying that it creates jobs—it sure does, at the expense of opportunities for better-paid jobs

with more benefits. Wal-Mart normalizes bad working conditions; as a former Wal-Mart employee, I can tell you that most of the people working there are doing it because they don’t have a choice, the same reason why a lot of people shop there. Wal-Mart forces other businesses to slash their prices (which Maich points out as a good thing in his article), and when they cannot afford to do so, they are forced to go out of business. That’s fine though, all that diversity and choice was overwhelming anyway, right?

Peggy Cooke, Fredericton

STEVE MAICH’S FASCINATION for numbers causes him to overlook the more important issues of quality of life. I witnessed the slow demise of three owner-operated drugstores in my former neighbourhood when a large drug chain opened on the same street. The big guy’s prices undercut the competition until they were gone. If we wanted competi-

tive prices, we had to drive out of the community. Maich speaks of the benefit to those earning under $10,000. That’s not Wal-Mart’s market. If it were, why then the hundreds of parking spaces around their outlets? The various analyses of Wal-Mart’s operations cited are generalities based on meaningless averages. Each proposal for a new outlet must be examined broadly on its own merits, how it affects the community, and not limited to the financial factors advocated in this article.

Raymond Peringer, Toronto

LOUD AND CLEAR

ANDREW POTTER in an otherwise interesting column beats the deafness metaphor to death (“Can one be authentic without being a snob?” Opinion, June 9). According to Potter, we are deaf to authentic prejudices, deaf to accents and deaf to narcissism. Of course he means that we are not aware of or are deliberately ignoring our prejudices and our own love of self. That may be true, but to anyone who has even a modicum of knowledge concerning deafness in modern society, using deafness as a metaphor for refusing to listen or lack of awareness is just plain silly. Deaf people don’t like to be used as a symbol for communication breakdown or ignorance. That view of deafness is at least 100 years out of date.

James C. MacDougall, Westmount, Que.

NUCLEAR REACTIONS

MACLEAN’S CONSIDERS it bad news (“Put up yer’ nukes,” Bad News, June 9) that former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter had the courage to state a longstanding historical truth—that Israel possesses a significant number of nuclear weapons. The Israeli nuclear program dates back to the inception of the state of Israel under founding prime minister Ben Gurion in reaction to the Nazi genocide of the European Jewish population. This was long before any other states in the Mideast region even considered developing nuclear weapons. Predictably the Israeli nuclear weapons program threatened

its neighbours and, in a similarly misguided effort at defence, led to the eventual consideration of some of these states to develop nuclear weapons of their own. The Israeli nuclear weapons project is called the Samson Option, based on a Biblical story in which a man destroys himself in order to destroy others who he perceives to be his enemies, not unlike the illogic of suicide bombing and the all-out destruction of nuclear war.

Dr. Mark Leith, Canadian Physicians for Global Survival, Toronto

CONSIDERING the way things have gone since the U.S. cut Hans Blix off at the knees, I think it would be more apropos to say, “It’s never a good sign when the United States stops co-operating with UN weapons inspectors.” Rogue states have nothing on the U.S. when it comes to creating instability and insecurity in the modern world.

Graham Way, Gibsons, B.C.

WHAT A JERK!

SCOTT FESCHUK’S latest attempt to be funny goes beyond anything I have ever seen (“A guide to Charlie Sheen’s, er, newest scandal,” Opinion, June 9). He has gone from unfunny to disgusting. We all know what a jerk Charlie Sheen is, we don’t need reminding.

Patsy Latham, Viera, Fla.

IN PASSING

Mel Ferrer, 90, actor. His career was intertwined with that of Audrey Hepburn, to whom he was married for 14 years. He starred in films with her, among them War and Peace, and directed or produced many of her hits, including 1959’s Green Mansions and the 1967 hit Wait Until Dark. Among Ferrer’s other films were Lili and The Sun Also Rises.

Jim McKay, 86, sportscaster. As the host of ABC’s Wide World of Sports between 1961 and 1998, he made his weekly introduction, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” an iconic phrase. The show required McKay to cover everything from demolition derbies to badminton. At the 1972 Munich Olympics he stayed on the air for 16 hours, broadcasting news of the Israeli athletes’ massacre.