Letters to the Business Editor: IRA article got it wrong

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IRA article got it wrong

"Fishing for Better Returns," July 9, gives readers the false impression that investors who want to own gold, silver, real estate or bank loans in their IRAs need to take great risks and incur obscene expenses through companies who specialize in "non-traditional IRAs." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Any IRA owner can invest in well-diversified, low-cost mutual funds, ETFs or index funds that focus on these markets. You should have warned readers that owning gold bullion, real estate parcels or bank loans in IRAs requires hefty transactions and custodial fees, while running the risk of violating complex IRS rules.

Publishing sales pitches for Wall Street hucksters isn't reporting, it's promotion.


Upper St. Clair

Electric car chargers inefficient

"Pennsylvanians Push For More Electric Vehicle Charging Stations" cited insufficient public chargers as "the biggest challenge" for electric car buyers and touted regional efforts to roll out more chargers.

This is the wrong strategy for saving gasoline and cutting emissions.

A 2013 Carnegie Mellon study found that public chargers are one of the most expensive ways to save gasoline and reduce air emissions -- especially in Pittsburgh.

Electric vehicles might sound green, but the electricity that charges them in our region comes predominantly from fossil fuels, which generate carbon dioxide and air pollutants. And, the production of electric vehicle batteries adds to emissions.

Public charging saves gasoline only on exceptional trips that are longer than the vehicle's range. If you drive a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which uses electricity for short trips and switches to gasoline for long trips, those chargers aren't necessary. If you instead drive a battery-only electric vehicle, long trips would be inconvenient anyway -- even if the fastest chargers were in ideal locations, a long-distance trip with a Nissan Leaf would require stopping every hour for an extra half hour.

Because PHEVs have smaller batteries, they are actually better for the environment and the pocketbook in Pittsburgh, even though they still use some gasoline. And they save more gasoline per dollar spent. With limited taxpayer funds, we should pursue the strategies that offer the most environmental and oil-security benefits possible. Public charging stations, which can cost $10-$20 per gallon saved or more, are too expensive and offer too little benefit for the foreseeable future to be a major part of such a strategy.


Associate professor of mechanical engineering and of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and director of the CMU Vehicle Electrification Group.

Squirrel Hill

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