Letters for the week of December 15-21, 2004 

Taking us to task for perpetuating the biodiesel lie, and writing in support of the poultry rescue movement.

"Grease Flunky," Bottom Feeder, 11/24

Do the math
Will Harper's article about Jiffy Lube is the type of journalism I often see these days that is full of opinion but lacks substance and the use of pertinent facts. First of all, 66 complaints nationwide out of thousands of stores doing thousands of services is not too bad. Do the math.
Guy Schmidt, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

"Stalking the Senator," City of Warts, 11/24

An overdue comeuppance
Kudos once again to Chris Thompson for his fine piece on Don Perata. Finally, the Don is receiving some well overdue exposure as regards the many opportunistic deals that he has, as the ultimate insider, manipulated over the years. For twenty years Perata has been the unofficial mayor of Oakland though until recently he had always lived in Alameda. At least half of Oakland's pathetic city council has been in his hip pocket. Not to mention (please don't!) the insufferable John Russo, presently city attorney. The current city council President, De La Fuente, has always been Don's point man on the council, and his thuggish demeanor has had Perata's blessing. These creatures are the ultimate pull peddlers, to borrow Ayn Rand's memorable phrase from Atls Shrugged. It's a crime that the real producers in society have to get the permission of these assorted deadheads to function.

When Don eventually takes that perp walk, he should have plenty of company.
Michael Hardesty, Oakland

"You Say You Want a Resolution," Feature, 11/10

The biodiesel ruse
"You Say You Want a Resolution" sang the praises of biodiesel. "Powered by Veggies and Idealism" (2/11) was even more celebratory of this alternative fuel.

Its advocates ignore the problem with biodiesel: It's filthy. Diesel engines spew much more pollution into the air than gasoline engines. Biodiesel is just another form of diesel. It produces less of some pollutants than normal diesel fuel, but 10 to 15 percent more smog-causing nitrogen oxides.

When the We the Planet Festival, "an eco-friendly, zero-waste concert ... drew all its power from biodiesel generators operating entirely off the grid," it replaced the grid electricity -- fueled primarily by relatively clean natural gas -- with that produced by dirty, high-emissions diesel. Even worse, it moved the emissions from remote plants to a dense, urban area.

But even though we're fouling the air, at least we're replacing fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions with our biodiesel, aren't we? Probably not. If the biodiesel is made from recycled cooking oil, then it is replacing petroleum. But there is only so much used frying fat available. Recycling all of it into biodiesel won't make a dent in our energy budget.

Biodiesel and other biofuels can be and are made from plants such as soybeans and corn. However, we use so much fossil fuel in growing crops that it's not clear we come out ahead. Research at Cornell University has shown that ethanol produced from corn consumes more energy in its production than it yields in its consumption.

By all means let's recycle used cooking oil into something useful. If it's used as fuel, do it away from urban areas. Replacing gas-powered cars with biodiesel would increase air pollution. It's like that bumper sticker from long ago, "Split wood, not atoms" -- a quaint, romantic notion, but an environmental disaster.
Ric Oberlink, Berkeley

"From Transit Board to Jailbird," Bottom Feeder, 11/10

Nasty, but I loved her
Your story on Nancy Jewell Cross brought a chuckle as well as a hint of sadness. Miss Cross was my sixth-grade teacher at W.W. Brier Elementary School in Fremont in 1972. She must have been in her early fifties then, and looking back she looked like Marion Ross (Mrs. C. on Happy Days) -- big hair, and always wore a dress. She wasn't mean or crazy then, but she did nickname me Gilligan -- oh, how I loved her for that!

Seriously, it serves no purpose for an 84-year-old woman with obvious mental problems to be in Santa Rita. Poor old thing, can't somebody help her?! Mental hospital, rest home, etc. She's quite nasty, but can't help it seemingly.
Mark J. Baxter, Concord

"Free Your Turkey. Before Thursday." East Side Story, 11/24

Animal cruelty is the norm
We should all be appreciative of the efforts of humane-minded people who rescue animals from abuse. Unfortunately, animal cruelty is the norm, not the exception, in modern animal agriculture. Chickens have parts of their beaks burned off and are crammed in cages so small they can't even flap their wings. Pigs are castrated without painkillers while their mothers languish in crates too small for them to even turn around.

While most of us don't go into factory farms to rescue these animals, we all can still take a stand against animal cruelty. Whenever we're at a grocery store or in a restaurant, we can either choose compassion or cruelty. Please, make your next meal vegetarian.
Josh Balk, Takoma Park, Maryland

Caring, not curing
Thank you so much for writing a fair and factual article that shows the East Bay Animal Advocates as the caring people that they are and not the "terrorists" that most media makes animal-rights supporters out to be. I hope you continue your great work of writing great articles on great organizations like the East Bay Animal Advocates.
Cassandra Gephart, Clayton

Animals deserve dignity
Thank you for your article profiling the work of Christine Morrissey and East Bay Animal Advocates. The open rescues they carry out not only give aid to suffering animals, but they help expose the cruelties of factory farms, which practice the most appalling animal abuse in the world. Ms. Morrissey and her organization are to be commended for their dedication to the moral premise that all animals have the right to be treated with dignity and compassion.
Mark Hawthorne, Rohnert Park


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