Letters to the editor

Alt-fuel advocates respond to “Clean Machines”

I wanted to be sure your readers were aware that, in addition to the alternative-fuel developments mentioned in your article [“Clean Machines,” Aug. 11], Asheville also has its very own Biodiesel Co-Op. This group was formed in February of this year, and has been steadily gaining new members. We currently have a membership of about 30 alternative-fuel enthusiasts who are working together to build up the legal and physical infrastructure to recycle fryer oil from local restaurants, manufacture it into high-quality, ASTM-certified fuel, and legally sell it to the public.

We have based the general structure of our organization on that of the French Broad Food Co-Op, as we genuinely want to be a member-owned and operated organization. It is our aim to provide the citizens and businesses of Asheville with a cost-competitive, locally-produced alternative to the non-recycled, mono-cropped, GMO-based 20 percent biodiesel blend that is slowly becoming available at some gas stations in the state.

Keep your eye open for upcoming fundraisers and other events. And to contact us, please e-mail us at AshevilleBiodiesel@hotmail.com.

— Solon Smith

Thank you for the excellent article on alternative fuels in WNC. There are some minor technical errors in the section about our Energy-Liberty Inc. VeggieDiesel conversion kits.

1. The systems do not run “biodiesel;” they run waste fryer oil unaltered, what is called a WVO/SVO system.

2. The reason we use braided stainless steel aerospace/racing hose is not to prevent clogging, but because of its ease of service and long-term reliability. We expect our systems to outlast the vehicle or equipment.

3. The biggest difference between Energy-Liberty Inc. kits and others is we use exhaust heat and a circulation pump to heat the fuel, getting the heat capacity to perfom the boil-out function. Others require users to pump into a separate container and boil the fuel with another heat source. This eliminates a large portion of the energy efficiencies and environmental benefits of this fuel. Additionally, our kits include the means to pump and filter directly to the tank.

Finally, there was no way given for your readers to find more info. They may contact me at Energy-Liberty Inc., 216-8590, racewrench@charter.net.

— Dave Goree

After reading Steve Rasmussen’s article on “Clean Machines,” I found myself dismayed that such a positive idea (sustainable fuels) would be so obscured by misinformation! The subtitle, “Alternative-Fuel Vehicles Gain Traction in WNC,” seemed to imply that there is more than one alternative fuel. Really, how is B20 (20 percent biofuel, 80 percent diesel) all that much better than the 10 to 20 percent ethanol fuels so widely available today, especially when the average car on the road does not run on diesel?

While it is true that biodiesel is a great idea for vehicles which have diesel engines, are we all really expected to get rid of our autos and go out and buy diesel ones? This can’t really be the most sustainable option. In fact, a hybrid engine running on ethanol-fuel is far more efficient than a diesel engine running on biodiesel. Why has ethanol, the original “alt-fuel,” been tossed aside and thus labeled as “conventional”? A vehicle can be retrofitted to run off ethanol as easily as Moody’s truck was altered to run on vegetable oil, and there is most likely already such a vehicle in the area. Best of all, a regular, nondiesel engine can be used. It is a shame that this important alternative fuel was left out of the article.

Secondly, unless one owns a trucking fleet, the most practical use for biodiesel in today’s America is as a replacement for home heating oil. It was sad to see that Mr. Rasmussen left out this important use for biodiesel. Today, far more people use home heating oil than use diesel fuels. If the point of the article was to encourage the use of alternative fuels, or even simply to enlighten us as to its availability or potential uses, the piece falls far short of the mark.

— Jeff McConnaughey

[Reporter Steve Rasmussen offers the following response:

It’s encouraging to see the critical subject of American energy independence finally generating the kind of passion too often devoted to flag-burning or gay marriage.

Unfortunately, while it’s true that you can now buy a Ford Taurus, Chevy Suburban and many other mainstream auto models as “flexible-fuel vehicles” able to burn efficient, clean-running ethanol (an alcohol fuel derived from corn, sugar cane or other carbohydrates, typically used in a gasoline blend termed “E85″), you still have to drive to Raleigh to find the only ethanol filling stations in North Carolina, according to the Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Station Locator at afdcmap.nrel.gov/locator/LocatePane.asp. For the time being, compressed natural gas and hybrid electric may be more practical alternative-fuel choices for most WNC drivers.

None of the alt-fuel experts I’ve spoken with lately see any single fuel — biodiesel, ethanol or any other — as a panacea. In their view, if we simply replaced King Oil with another one-resource-fits-all monopoly, we’d be trading one dangerous energy dependency for another. Many of them believe that we humans need to imitate the diversity of nature, and adapt our infrastructure to a variety of “green” energy sources.]

High-tech Alice part of rich history

I’d like to congratulate Heather Maloy’s Terpsicorps team for taking on the technically and artistically challenging task of collaborating with local media artists to create a truly unique interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale.

However, I’d like to clarify a misguided assumption in the [Aug. 11] Xpress article, “Go Upload Alice: High-tech dance piece introduces a new era of media arts to Asheville.” While writing about the introduction of “new eras” for any topic might make for compelling PR, it is certainly not the case regarding the rich tradition of truly multi-media collaboration in our area. Most notably, the seminal educational experiment known as Black Mountain College (1933-1956) brought together some of the most influential artistic collaborations of the 20th century. Musicians, poets, painters, weavers, sculptors, dancers, engineers, playwrights, photographers and budding filmmakers explored the reaches of their creativity, leaving a rich legacy that unfortunately seems to be more acknowledged overseas than in our own region.

Since first arriving here in the late ’80s, I’ve been fortunate to witness and participate in numerous media arts-related collaborations. For many years, local and national artists have incorporated media and projection elements into installations, theatrical productions, spoken word performances, music concerts, dance performances, and even puppet shows. Local event promoters and curators have showcased innovative multi-media works, though often out of the spotlight of the public eye, at local venues like Zone one, Vincent’s Ear, Asheville Community Resource Center, YMI Cultural Center, The Big Idea, The Orange Peel, Stella Blue, BeBe Theater, The Wedge, Lipinsky Auditorium, Diana Wortham Theater, N.C. Stage Company and others.

As media arts are increasingly acknowledged as an important component of our artistic landscape, it is important to understand and honor the rich history of collaboration and exhibition in this area. Far from introducing a “new era,” Alice is just one more shining example of how innovative and experimental applications of new technologies within traditional art forms can lead to new and exciting possibilities.

— David McConville

[Editor’s Note: McConville is founder of the Media Arts Project (http://www.themap.org), and board member of Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center.]

Taylor’s privilege is taxpayers’ burden

In the mail last week, I received a multi-color, oversized, tri-fold piece extolling the virtues of Charles Taylor and the things he believes that he has done for Western North Carolina. It is the second such piece I have received this month addressed to me or current resident.

Since this is an election year, one expects to get such things in the mail, and I usually just throw them in the trash. However, in this case I opened the piece and was shocked to see that this expensive document was paid for by taxpayers and sent under the representative’s franking privilege — postage-free at no charge to the campaign of Charles Taylor. In other words, the taxpayers are subsidizing Charles Taylor’s reelection campaign.

I resent this cynical disregard for how my tax dollars are being spent. I have called the House of Representatives to ask for an investigation into the use of tax dollars for the distribution of this thinly-veiled campaign piece. You can do the same. Call 1-202-225-9337. This is the franking commission in the House of Representatives. Ask to have these mailings investigated.

— Maxine Dalton
Hot Springs

Good economy? Let me count the ways

The president is beating his chest and announcing the economy is good. Knowing his pattern of misrepresenting the truth, I offer this information regarding the time period of his administration:

A. The Dow Jones is considerably lower than when he took office.

B. The trade deficit is $253 billion so far this year.

C. The dollar sank to an all-time low.

D. The budget deficit is a record high.

E. Each citizen’s portion of the national debt has increased from $20,000 to $24,000, a 20 percent rise.

F. Bankruptcies and foreclosures are at record levels.

G. Retail sales were down last month [June].

H. Fuel, energy and food prices, which are not [always] included in the rate of inflation, are dramatically higher than when he took office.

I. Cost of college has taken a huge jump under Bush.

J. After-tax income for workers increased a paltry 1 percent last year.

K. Cost of medicine has increased four times more than workers’ wages have increased.

L. Under Bush, $150 billion of Social Security Trust Fund money each year is going to give tax breaks and finance the war.

M. Bush promised 7 million new jobs if Congress passed his tax bill. He’s 8 million short of his goal.

N. Under Bush, 1.4 million jobs have been lost, compared to 22 million jobs created during Clinton’s administration.

O. Many new jobs are lower paying and have no benefits. Workers are finding that wages for new jobs are 63 percent less than the wages paid in jobs they lost.

P. The average wage earner has lost $1,400 in purchasing power per year under Bush’s regime.

Q. Twenty-eight percent of the new jobs are filled by noncitizens.

R. This administration encourages the outsourcing of jobs. Mr. Bush and his wealthy benefactors are living large, but the working Joe and Jane are having a hard time making ends meet.

Give this president his pink slip on Nov. 2.

— Orville Elkins

Form letters are duplicitous

Your “letter to the editor”, “Back Bush’s pro-growth agenda,” [June 2] is in fact not written by the given author, Brooks Moorhead. In fact, it is a form letter provided by the Bush campaign, and has been republished as a “Letter to the Editor” under multiple bylines in publications across the country.

You can find the original here:


In short, the Bush campaign is urging its supporters to spread their campaign message under the false pretense that it is the original work of the various individuals. While each individual is doing this of their own free will, and doubtless it is their opinion being expressed, it is dishonest to imply that the letter is the work of those individuals, rather than an individual agreeing with the pre-written statements of the Bush campaign.

— Jonathan Trachtenberg
Santa Cruz, Calif.

[Editor’s Note: It is the goal of Xpress to run only original letters directed to this paper. We request that our readers follow this policy in writing to us, in the interest of open, honest, and personally reflective dialogue.]

In war, time follows no norm

Most of us have seen the photos of World War II’s Normandy beaches or the ones in the Pacific after an attack, scattered with bodies of our men where they fell, incoming waves lapping at their resting places. They lost their lives before they even had time to reach dry land. Clearly, their actual combat experience was brutally short, even though it was entirely long enough for them. We know other men lost their lives moments after reaching the ground in air drops. These are examples of how quickly and how mercilessly lives are lost in wars.

So the bluster about whether John Kerry served long enough in Vietnam to qualify for combat experience could be coming from people who, despite lengthy service, should really know better [than to] claim that because Kerry was in Vietnam “only” four months, he doesn’t really have enough combat experience. Often we hear this from people who spent their whole time in a safe area. Regardless, my respect for anyone who served in that war couldn’t be higher, whether they regret serving in Vietnam or not, whether they envy Kerry or not, or whether they were fired on or not. I regret that they served there at all.

But to claim Kerry is unqualified to disparage that war is unusual, an effort to deny him the freedom of speech he and all that war’s veterans fought for. It is the kind of misguided nonsense we might expect from Dick Cheney or our president, given their battle scars(?), but they leave the overt dirty work to others.

— Allen Thomas

Development: Who wins? Who loses?

I drove east on I-240 again today; every time I go by that Wal-Mart disaster, I get sick. I can’t believe the powers that be allowed such a huge scar on our landscape! The environmental degradation from this corporate giant putting its claws into our community, as awful as it is, is not the half of it. The independent Asheville businesses and overall economy will be seriously scarred as well!

Why have we allowed the bulldozer to gobble up so much open green space to put in a mammoth parking lot in addition to the Super Wal-Mart building? I think this was a song sung 30 years ago, and it seems we are further away from sane development planning than ever before. How many trees gave their lives for this project? We live in one of the most beautiful forested cities in the world. Are we going to allow our precious forests to be sacrificed to such short- sighted projects?

Two questions [are] worth asking before beginning any new development: Who wins? Who loses?

Whose pocket book is being filled? The biggest Fortune 500 company in the United States! The trees and the citizens lose. Don’t think for a minute that saving a dime on an item by shopping at Wal-Mart makes you a winner. For details, read the books written about the evils of “walmart” (no caps intentional). Employees of Wal-Mart lose. Our tax base loses.

This is an example of rampant, barbarian capitalism at its worst. When will the citizens rise up against such blatant destruction of our landscape? Our voices were not listened to [when] we spoke out against this monstrosity. We are now forced to look at and live within sight of this monumental mistake.

Development on such a large scale should be put to a county-wide referendum and not be left to the whims of a city council that, as far as I’m concerned, does not have in mind the best interests of the citizens of Western North Carolina and specifically Asheville and Buncombe County. Will Asheville look like every other big city in the United States in another five years? Where is our integrity? We should vote those people who allowed this to happen out of office — hold their feet to the fire!

— Susan Stewart

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