Letters for June 25, 2009

Letter of the week
Oversimplifying nuclear power

Re “The lights will stay on” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Race to the Bottom, June 11):

Scheide argues that nuclear energy is the only real option for California’s energy future, and the building of nuclear power plants is inevitable. He bases this on the statement that to build enough solar panels to meet California’s growing energy needs would require “78 square miles,” and that these large solar projects would be “fought tooth and nail by the local NIMBYs.”

Not only does this argument contradict itself, it also oversimplifies the building of nuclear power plants to an almost comedic level.

The argument completely ignores the simple fact that any new nuclear-energy facility proposed would be fought with the same, if not more, ferocity by local NIMBYs as any proposed solar project. One only needs to remind the public of the number of times Rancho Seco [Nuclear Generating Station] almost had a catastrophic meltdown to have people scrambling over themselves to see any new projects scrapped.

Second, Scheide apparently hasn’t looked into the complexities of building a nuclear power plant. Just ask the [Finnish] how easy it is to build a new-generation nuclear facility. Their nuclear facility, which is already four years into construction, is facing considerable setbacks, and, even more exciting for them, there is no set date for when the project will come online. But what the Finns have enjoyed most is the cost, which has ballooned by close to 50 percent from its original $4.2 billion price tag. Add to the mix the [United State’s] permitting process, material availability (or lack thereof), and the sheer amount of capital investment needed to even begin the building process, and suddenly the idea of building just one nuclear facility seems like a daunting, if not impossible, task.

As for the “78 square miles” needed for solar panels, I have only one word: “roofs.” It’s about time we turn our urban sprawl into something useful. Instead of dumping billions of dollars into the hands of large corporations in order to build nuclear power plants, why not actually benefit the taxpayers for once by subsidizing the building of solar panels on people’s homes? California has always been the vanguard of energy policy. Let us leave the backwards thinking of nuclear-energy generation to Texas, Virginia and New York.

Tyler Haines

Rube Goldberg budgets

Re “What voters want” (SN&R Editorial, June 11):

One wonders why the [Democrats] marched into the GOP trap, with a set of Rube Goldberg [money] shifts, fee flimflams and magic mirror tricks, instead of stepping up and putting on the ballot really popular plans like rolling back the Proposition 13 corporate property tax break and the two-thirds majority requirement for a budget deal. What they got for a couple of GOP votes was a sound bite across America on how “even crazy California won’t vote for more taxes.” Smooth move, guys and gals, when the turnout was the lowest in history and half the voters voted “no” in order to prevent cuts.

What I do not understand is why Dems are still not proposing a special election, mid-September or not too late in November, to do just these things.

And I also do not understand why interest groups for children, the poor, the disabled and the government workers’ unions have not set up tables to collect signatures to recall [Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger. He came in on a recall, so poetic justice. I suspect there would be a million volunteers to staff those tables, which is enough signatures right there.

Power to the people!

M.J. Shepley

Welcome back, Becca!

Re “Real-life bottom of the employment barrel?” by Becca Costello (SN&R Scene&Heard, June 11):

I just got done reading this, and I have to ask, is Becca Costello back? Her stories are so funny! She’s my favorite underdog writer. She has a “geeky cool” thing about her. Whenever I read her stories, I don’t know whether to give her a journalistic award or a wedgie!

Please publish more of her real-life experiences. She is just what SN&R needs.

Steve Youmans

Lady’s concept

Re “Go toward the light” by Greg Lucas (SN&R Dish, June 11):

I just wanted to voice my opinion on Mr. Lucas’ take on The Shady Lady [Saloon]. I believe the Shady Lady’s concept went way over his head.

I don’t think saloons of the ’30s and ’40s offered buffalo wings, calamari and sliders, or were brightly lit with wide-screen TVs and the usual barroom lights that make you feel like everyone is looking at you.

Contrary, the saloons of that period were secret, dark and offered something unusual to consume, just like our Shady Lady of the present. If Mr. Lucas wants buffalo wings, go to TGI Friday’s.

Larisa Steele

Crash and burn

Re “On any Saturday” by R.V. Scheide (SN&R Race to the Bottom, June 4):

The author claims that you can buy a “near carbon copy” of Mike Alessi’s race-winning bike for about $6,000. I can’t speak directly to the state of tune of Alessi’s bike, but factory teams in general use components tailored to each rider made from a materials commonly referred to as “unobtainium,” making the bikes professionals ride similar only in name to showroom models. I have heard estimates that factory machines and private professional team bikes can be valued at over $100,000 because of this. Six grand may get a bike that will outperform most riders’ abilities, but a carbon copy it won’t be.

Also, the article states that for the annual price of a “respectable college education” you could outfit, train and shuttle a youth around in hopes they will be a competitive professional motocrosser. Insinuating that spending money on your child’s education to become a doctor will lead to them talking “down to you” left me baffled. A motocrosser’s career is measured in a few short seasons. It normally costs more than they will ever win and is plagued by injury. However, a doctor’s career can last for decades, with low risk of injury or death and with a high probability that they will derive a good income from it, especially if they specialize in patching up motocross riders for a living. The price of a reasonable education may go some way toward keeping a privateer racer close to competitive and chasing the elusive contract for a team ride, but it’s a gamble that few families can afford to take.

However, what could be cheapish fun for a family, assuming everyone is into it, would be to knock around local areas trails more than a few days a year on five-year-old (or older) bikes with the kids for giggles, or entering Junior in some local races organized by local clubs. You might also go as a family to watch the pros at Hangtown [MX Outdoor National races] which would definitely qualify as cheap fun compared to competition.

Still, if Junior displays natural talent and is self-motivated to work out 25 hours and ride hard at least five a week to be in top fitness, plus shows form at the track, then you might consider betting the farm on his career as a motocross racer. Otherwise, stick to the trails and send Junior to college.

Craig Maclaine