Readers React

When profits and the planet's needs collide

To the editor: In just the last week, two of The Times' top journalists have explored the financial quagmire that occurs when sound environmental stewardship comes into conflict with business as usual.

Last week, columnist George Skelton tackled the thorny assertion that people with small, fuel-efficient cars may not be paying their fair share of gas taxes for road repair because they don't buy as much gas. More recently, columnist Michael Hiltzik took on the problem of whether or not to compensate utilities when conservation of water and electricity reduces their income.

The convergence of global warming, population growth and technological breakthroughs may call for a generational change in how we manage our infrastructure and resources for the common good. Kudos to the two journalists for initiating this critical discussion.

Jack Cooper, North Hollywood

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To the editor: As a solar generating customer and a Sierra Club supporter, I think a $10 monthly fee paid to my utility well worth it for the value received. We paid $12.53 for 12 months of electricity; another $10 per month for the infrastructure that supports my community is not too much to ask.

The Sierra Club's claim that this fee assessed to solar generating customers could lead to a 42% drop in solar installations strains credulity. I'd love to read a report on the analysis that led to such an incredible conclusion.

Sam Knight, Poway

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To the editor: Hiltzik's column leaves out one important number being sought by all solar generators who also connect to the grid: the tipping point that makes the installation of a bank of batteries more sensible than sticking with the utility and paying its fixed charge.

My back-of-an-envelope estimate for the tipping point is $8 per rated kilowatt per month. If a utility were to charge me more than that, I'd begin seriously to consider the battery option. If my utility were to charge me $70 per month, as has been proposed by a Wisconsin utility, I'd begin to move on the matter in short order.

I hope that it doesn't come to that. Using batteries to cover one's average need for electricity without backup by the grid leads to shortages when one has a house full of guests; the grid easily produces the additional energy needed during those periods.

Oliver Seely, Lakewood

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