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Obese people generally don't have a choice

I was disturbed to read your Sunday editorial concerning the obesity epidemic in this country ("Fat and Fact," Nov. 22). While much of what you say is factually accurate, you place too much blame on the individual. You say that "people who are too fat often do have a choice." In fact, obese people generally do not have a choice. No one chooses to be fat. Obesity is dictated more by genetics than any other single factor. To be obese is no more a choice than the color of one's eyes or skin.

Even the brightest researchers in the field accept that we know little about the root causes of obesity. They would all agree that it is more complicated than your facile "death by doughnut" comment. Hunger and satiety are much more challenging issues than you seem to imagine.

We can all agree that something needs to be done to manage the obesity problem, but it is unfair to blame the individual. A health-care economist might be surprised to find that the obese population wish for a solution far more than any policy wonk.

ROBERT F. QUINLIN, M.D.
Fox Chapel


CO2 misinformation

To reduce impacts of climate change, the United States must limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants now. To do this at a price we can afford will require all the tools that we've got -- improved energy efficiency, use of more renewable and nuclear power, and electricity from coal and gas plants that capture CO2 and store it nearly a mile underground (CCS).

Penn State nuclear engineer Edward H. Klevans has his facts wrong when it comes to CCS ("Should We Bury Carbon Dioxide? Or Bury the Idea?" Nov. 15 Forum). Because CO2 will be trapped in tiny spaces within the rock, it cannot suddenly all leak out as Professor Klevans implies. If some CO2 did leak, it couldn't "trigger explosions"-- in fact, CO2 is used in fire extinguishers. A large CO2 leak could cause people to suffocate, but this is unlikely.

Furthermore, Professor Klevans incorrectly writes that CCS "has never been demonstrated at industrial scale." Three industrial-scale CCS projects are safely operating in the world today. CO2 is also safely injected into more than 100 U.S. oil fields to increase oil production, which is very similar to carbon storage. And finally, he complains that CCS will be too expensive. He fails to mention, though, that estimated costs for new nuclear power plants and coal plants with CCS are similar.

The United States needs an honest and open debate on how it will reduce emissions of CO2. Spreading misinformation about any energy technology to promote another should have no place in this debate.

SEAN McCOY, Ph.D.
Research Engineer
LAUREN FLEISHMAN
Ph.D. Student
Department of Engineering and Public Policy
Carnegie Mellon University
Oakland


Coal's importance

For a man who spent years promoting nuclear power, Edward H. Klevans shows a surprising lack of confidence in technology as it relates to the capture and storage of carbon dioxide.

Virtually every serious observer of global energy needs agrees that coal will continue to be an important energy source for decades to come. In fact, the Energy Information Authority predicts that global coal use will increase by more than 60 percent in 25 years. Coal's abundance, energy density and low cost guarantee that the world will continue to use coal. That's why there is also widespread agreement that technologies for the capture and storage of carbon (CCS) from coal-fired power plants are an essential tool in mitigating the effects on climate many believe are influenced by carbon emissions.

Dr. Klevans' assertions notwithstanding, technologies to capture carbon and inject it into the ground already exist on a smaller scale in applications around the globe. Projects today seek to scale up these technologies to capture the larger amounts of CO2 produced at coal-fired power plants, as well as to develop the next generation of capture technologies and to commercialize the geologic sequestration of CO2. Although the United States is often referred to as the "Saudi Arabia of coal," we are also the Saudi Arabia of geologic sequestration sites -- with more than 1,000 years of CO2 storage capacity.

But we need not, as Dr. Klevans suggests, agree on a single technology for CCS. In fact, CONSOL has concluded the country is best served by a robust "menu" of options from which we can choose. Natural gas, wind, solar and nuclear power should be part of America's energy mix, but to reject coal and to dismiss CCS technologies is akin to making energy policy with ideological blinders on.

THOMAS F. HOFFMAN
Senior Vice President, External Affairs
STEVEN WINBERG
Vice President, R&D
CONSOL Energy Inc.
Cecil


Horrific 'situation'

The "situation" Sally Kalson chose to ignore while traveling in Israel ("Postcard From the New Israel," Nov. 22) is the apartheid-like conditions faced daily by nearly half of the population that is Palestinian -- Christian and Muslim.

Ms. Kalson traveled with a programmed GPS that would have her avoid the conditions in the West Bank. While she writes that she ignored the GPS, she also seemingly chose to ignore the horrific wall that separates Palestinian families from their relatives and agricultural, historical lands. Ms. Kalson also manages to ignore the Jewish-only settlements, using the innocuous term "housing developments," which destroy and uproot Palestinian homes and families. Not even pro-Israel U.S. government officials such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama can turn a blind eye to this ever-increasing land theft and destruction.

It appears that Ms. Kalson also chose to ignore the many overcrowded refugee camps -- home to tens of thousands of Palestinians forced to live in squalor since the celebrated founding of the state of Israel in 1948. While Ms. Kalson can choose to ignore the reality of occupation, racism and theft, the rest of us dare not. A real Mideast peace depends on a conscious, thoughtful population -- not one that falls prey to half-truths and propaganda.

MIKE DOUGAN
Wilkinsburg


Giant silliness

I really like the new Giant Eagle Market District store in Robinson; it's very impressive with cool international aisles, impressive cheese and butcher departments, hot foods in the cafe, and most surprising, it sells beer! How awesome is that?

Not so fast. Instead of embracing progress, Giant Eagle took common sense and tossed it out the window. It's like that TV ad featuring Jerry Seinfeld. Remember the one where a cashier recognizes him but insists on ID for his check? Well, you better have a picture ID to buy beer here. They insist on ID from all customers, even gray-haired, wrinkled, long-toothed guys like me. My best-if-used-before date was a long time ago; it's plainly obvious some people are over 21!

This isn't about the beer. I got mine -- showed my military ID (Ret.) and bought two six-packs. It's the policy I'm after. On Veterans Day, the customer after me (with U.S. Navy tattoo) looked a few years older than me and was turned away -- no ID.

When I asked if this was store policy or the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's, I was told: "Well, we do it the same as Wegmans: no ID, no sale." The Taliban clubs women who show off their ankles. Should we do the same? Where's the common sense?

Giant Eagle will try to play the safety and responsibility card and defer idiocy to the PLCB, but the bottom line is Giant Eagle came up with this house rule. Ohio Giant Eagle stores can spot the old guy and not demand his papers like the Gestapo. Here in Pennsylvania, we are silly to let stupidity rule the day.

MIKE SCHIERBERL
New Wilmington


The dirtiest job is too disgusting for viewership

There's a reality show called "Dirty Jobs." The purpose of the show is to exhibit jobs that are physically filthy in one way or another and the "star" of the show participates in the dirty job by actually working at it for some period.

The one job that is at least peopled by the dirtiest personnel will most likely never be on this show. This job is being a member of a legislature at either the state or national level. These characters seem to have no character. Their apparent only purpose is to enrich themselves at the expense of their constituency. Alas, they make the all-too-often accurate assumption that we voters are not only ignorant of the goings-on in a legislature but also that they can tell us the sky is falling and we'll believe them.

What can we do? Not much really. They will go on doing what their benefactors want because they are aware of where the butter for their bread originates.

Mark Twain suggested that there were two things we should never watch being made, sausage and laws. I don't know about sausage, but because of the all-too-ready access to information about our lawmakers' actions we get to observe them in all their revolting and disgusting activity.

ROBERT WELLMAN
Mount Washington


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We welcome your letters. Please include your name, address and phone number, and send to Letters to the Editor, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. E-mail letters to letters@post-gazette.com or fax to 412-263-2014. Letters should be 250 words or less, original and exclusive to the Post-Gazette. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and accuracy and will be verified before being published.



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