Letters to the Editor, April 15

Apr. 14, 2014 @ 10:36 PM

Durham ideal to embrace solar 

In her recent article, Mebane Rash discussed how a small, rural North Carolina town is embracing solar energy and reaping its benefits.  Rash emphasizes the support of the Mt. Airy community, including presidents of local banks, schools, and even the Chamber of Commerce.  She also offers Durham as the right urban community to embrace solar.  To obtain the numerous benefits solar energy offers, Durham will have to garner the same support seen in Mt. Airy.

Solar energy offers Durham significant benefits.  There are no emissions, meaning no pollution, and the costs continue to decrease as the price of electricity continues to rise.  It is important to note distribution efficiency: Power plants must use energy to ship power all across the state, but this energy can be saved if power is produced where it will be used.  In addition, solar energy creates local jobs.

Durham is the ideal urban city to champion solar energy.  It is a hub for both technology and start up businesses, while also offering the innovation of numerous higher education institutions.

Going solar seems like a great opportunity for the city of Durham to stand out.  I hope the mayor and City Council seize this opportunity.

Emma Kelley


Where the money goes

Tuesday is tax day, and we might want to consider where our tax dollars go.  In the federal budget for 2015, “discretionary” spending (not counting Social Security, unemployment, Medicare and other much smaller “mandatory” expenses) is $116 trillion.  How does our government choose to spend this discretionary money?  The numbers are scary, if not surprising (source: National Priorities Project). 

Well over half of your discretionary taxes (55.2 percent) go to the military:  $640 billion.  Plus, another $8 billion for the military comes out of mandatory spending.  Maybe that's the amount we really need to spend to defend ourselves? 

In sharp contrast, the discretionary budget allots $71.5 billion (6.2 percent) for education, $60.9 billion (5.3 percent) for housing and community, $38.4 billion (3.3 percent) for energy and the environment, $29.2 billion (2.5 percent) for science, and $26.1 billion (2.3 percent) for transportation.  All these investments, essential for building and maintaining our society, add up to 19.5 percent -- less than one-fifth -- of what our government bestows on the military-industrial complex. 

Speakers as diverse as Dwight Eisenhower and Martin Luther King warned us about this decades ago, yet spending seems only to become more skewed with time.  Would we really rather line the pockets of arms industry CEOs than educate our children, house our families, develop safer and cleaner energy sources, advance our scientific understanding or maintain and improve our transportation infrastructure?  Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

Joan F. Walsh