Letters to the Editor

by Inlander Readers & r & & r & Diesel on Biodiesel & r & I enjoyed your article on biomass fuels, "Building an Industry" (2/16/06) and feel it represented both sides of the conundrum fairly well. So for no other reason than to interject a little history, you and your readers should consider the following.

Rudolph Diesel's first engine debuted at the Paris World's Fair in 1895. It was powered by vegetable oil, as that was a cheap, abundant fuel at the time. Diesel conceived his engine for much the same reason Stirling conceived his -- because scores of industrial workers were dying in boiler explosions not uncommon to the steam technology and inferior steels of the day.

Conspiracy buffs like to argue that the advent of World War I, the application of Diesel's engine in submarines, and the growing power of Big Oil were key reasons as to why Diesel's body was found floating in the English Channel in 1910.

While that is merely a theory, it is refreshing to see the GM ads about "going yellow" on television these days. With no less a mind than Gale Banks excitedly stumping biodiesel fuels and their potential for even greater performance than petroleum-based diesels in today's engines, there is hope that our nation can fully jump onto the ethanol/methanol/biodiesel bandwagon with abandon.

In the immortal words of George Washington Carver, "I believe that the great Creator has put ores and oil on this earth to give us a breathing spell. As we exhaust them, we must be prepared to fall back on our farms, which is God's true storehouse and can never be exhausted. We can learn to synthesize material for every human need from things that grow."

Charles M. Heinlein & r & Okanogan, Wash.

Smoke Under the Hood & r & I am writing to respond to yet another incomplete article regarding the use of biofuel -- "Building an Industry," by Joel Smith (The Inlander, 2/16/06). In the near future, the world is going to have to find other energy sources than oil. To have a viable energy source, you need it to return more energy than was put into producing it. That is the main problem encountered when you look at the production of biofuels and bio-energy -- they do not produce more energy than they consume in producing them, or they just barely break even. The reason they do not produce more than they consume is because all of the current bio-fuel crops use large amounts of oil-based fertilizers and pesticides.

The main problem with your article is that it omits this part of the biofuel problem and makes no mention of the one agricultural product that takes less energy to produce than it delivers and is arguably one of the most useful plants ever to evolve. You guessed it: hemp. (FYI, industrial hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, so you can't inebriate yourself by smoking it.) Hemp needs no chemicals whatsoever to help it grow and actually replenishes the soil it is grown in.

Hemp would also address the points the article brings up in the matter of not using every part of the crop. There are so many uses for this agricultural product that there would be little waste. Keeping this useful plant illegal is shortsighted and possibly very damaging to our future. While industrial hemp is not a panacea for our energy and environmental problems, it sure would be a good start.

Not until you cut down the last tree / Not until you poison the last river / Not until the last field is laid barren / Not until you catch the last fish / Will you realize you can't eat money.

Josh Burris & r & Spokane, Wash.

Fuel for Thought & r & I read with interest your article "Building an Industry" (2/16/06). Having been in the nitrogen fertilizer business for over 25 years, I am of the opinion that the production of ethanol requires more energy than the fuel produced will generate.

Wheat, corn, barley and canola all require nitrogen to grow, and nitrogen is made from natural gas. In addition, significant amounts of fuel are required to move nitrogen from its point of production to its end use. Farm equipment also requires a lot of fuel. All of these need to be taken into account. Even more significant is the fact that much of our nitrogen in the United States is shutting down due to high natural gas costs. Guess where all the nitrogen is being imported from? The Middle East, where cheap natural gas is plentiful.

While your article is interesting, it barely scratches the surface of this issue. It doesn't even touch on the economics. There is a Professor David Pimental at Cornell University who has done a lot of economic research on the subject. I refer you to www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July05/ethanol.toocostly.ssl.html.

At the end of the day, I'm afraid the driver on this issue will be political rather than practical economics.

Dan Peeno & r & Cheney, Wash.

Jumbo Shrimp & r & Thank you, Inlander, for Paul Haeder's and Kevin Taylor's excellent portrayals of our neighborhood's battle against Lanzce Douglass' proposed South Ridge development near 29th and Havana ("Planned Unit Development," 2/9/06). Thanks also for Haeder's "Treading Lightly" series -- a good start to opening Spokane to new and alternative viewpoints on ecology, environment, growth and development.

South Ridge truly is the poster child for everything that is wrong with the system. How did this 52 acres of extremely environmentally sensitive and geologically hazardous land slip through the cracks to be included in the Urban Growth Boundary in the first place? This goes against everything the Growth Management Act intended: critical areas were never meant to be included in Urban Growth Boundaries.

South Ridge is about so much more than a neighborhood trying to keep out a dangerously ill-conceived development. It is about a broken and flawed system, where citizens who dare oppose "development" are treated with contempt and disdain by their elected officials, who are all too frequently tied to developers and others in the real estate industry.

We are on a path to economic and environmental self-destruction. We had better figure this out, and soon. We must find some kind of balance between property rights and the best interests of the community. It is not in the best interests of our community to pave over our wetlands, destroy our hillsides, clear-cut our urban forest, pollute our river and aquifer, dry up and/or contaminate our wells, flood our neighbors, and ultimately destroy the fabric of our neighborhoods -- all in the name of "development."

We cannot have economic prosperity by sacrificing our environment. I hope our citizens vote in responsive and responsible leadership and then hold their feet to the fire every time they fail to respect the common interests of our neighborhoods -- the citizens' will -- over the narrow interests of developers who don't live, play and work in the very neighborhoods they are so willing to alter negatively.

Linde Hackett & r & Spokane, Wash.

A Decent Proposal & r & In "On the Street" (The Inlander, 2/2/06), Robert Delriccio questioned the recent downtown condominium projects undertaken by some of our city's prominent developers. Aside from his insensitive and snide remarks regarding the serious homeless problem Spokane faces, Delriccio raises an important point: Is downtown living only for the well-off, or will projects targeted toward Spokane's middle class also succeed? More important, though, his letter is based on a mindset that holds Spokane back.

This attitude will prohibit Spokane from ever reaching its potential. Why is there this belief that we must wait around for Ron Wells or Don Barbieri to make things happen? Both have done great things for this city, and will continue to do so. But if Spokane is to thrive, more people must step up to the plate. So, I extend an offer to Delriccio -- will you share in the cost of a market analysis for middle-income housing?

Tim Spellman & r & Spokane, Wash.

Sounding the Horn of Gondor & r & Thank you for your recent article on "The Condo Craze" (The Inlander, 1/26/06). I laughed out loud when I read Mick McDowell's assertion that "Every developer worth his salt is working on something with condos right now."

As I read down the list of your 12 featured projects, it is blatantly obvious that 11 of the 12 developers are worth their salt. It is easy to appreciate projects like the West 809 Building, the Morgan Building, or the Rookery Block, all of which make intelligent use of existing space, with an eye towards restoration and preservation. New construction projects such as Carnegie Square in the Riverside neighborhood, which attempt to fit with the character and human scale of their surroundings, should be a welcome addition to their neighborhoods.

What is McDowell thinking with his "Tower of Sauron" project? He owns a small parcel on the westernmost edge of the downtown district, and he wants to wedge a ridiculous 17-story tower between the Riverside Avenue National Historic District and the Peaceful Valley National Historic District.

This guy is Frank Lloyd Wrong, and I sincerely hope that the Planning Commission and City Council will send him back to school to learn something other than "mine is bigger."

Jim Patten & r & Spokane, Wash.

Russians Among Us & r & I want to thank The Inlander, Suzanne Schreiner and Steve Walker for the fine cover story, "Russians' Tale" (1/19/06). The article successfully blended personal stories with an intriguing exploration of culture. I appreciated discovering more about our Russian neighbors.

It may interest your readers to know that the March of Dimes has published fact sheets in Russian and Ukrainian, which can help educate new parents and parents-to-be on more than 40 topics such as smoking during pregnancy, newborn screening tests, high blood pressure in pregnancy, and low birth weight. As a part of our mission to reduce premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality, we offer these materials free of charge to health care providers, organizations and individuals.

In addition, the Inland Northwest Regional Perinatal Center recently received a March of Dimes Community Award in the amount of $3,000 to fund the translation, printing, and distribution of the March of Dimes "Learn the Signs of Preterm Labor" brochure in Russian. This brochure will be used in perinatal programs throughout the state, reaching at least 1,500 Russian-speaking women and their health care providers.

These materials can be obtained by contacting me at our local office: 328-1920 or kchristensen@marchofdimes.com.

Kris C. Christensen & r & Communications and Program Coordinator & r & March of Dimes, Inland Northwest Division & r & Spokane, Wash.

Deadeye Dick & r & The amount of criticism and ridicule that many Americans have heaped upon Vice President Dick Cheney recently is very sad and speaks to our propensity to bash our elected public officials. We are thankful for the privilege of voting in open and free elections, but at the same time once we elect people we seem to devote ourselves to making their lives as miserable as possible, looking for every excuse to criticize them.

I would suggest that a better way would be to pray for all elected public servants, share encouragement whenever we can, contact them in a kind way if we disagree with their policies and learn to "let be" a bit more on some of the things that we may not understand about their lives or policies. After all, these people have the same basic needs and interests in life as do all the rest of us. They deserve much better treatment than we generally give.

Thomas E. Durst & r & Spokane, Wash.

Two-Faced on Ethanol & r & The latest example of President Bush saying one thing and doing the opposite: In his State of the Union address last month, Bush said that "America is addicted to oil" and that "the best way to break this addiction is through technology." He announced an "advanced energy initiative ... clean-energy research at the Department of Energy to push for breakthroughs." He specifically said, "We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol ... Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive." This research into ethanol and other alternative energies (wind, solar, hydrogen, etc.) will enable us to "reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."

Now, days after his promise, the Department of Energy is laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory because of 15 percent cuts to its 2006 budget. The cuts will be concentrated among researchers on wind and biomass, which includes ethanol. President Bush also didn't mention that he opposed foreign oil reductions in the 2005 energy bill. Most energy experts outside of the oil industry say that the single best way to reduce foreign oil dependence is conservation. President Bush also threatened to veto the 2005 energy bill if it included increases in the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. Rep. Cathy McMorris also will not endorse increasing CAFE standards.

Is this President Bush's view of reality -- promising ethanol research while his energy department is printing ethanol researcher pink slips? Or is it his view of the voters' intelligence?

Steve Gigliotti & r & Davenport, Wash.