Gas and hot air

Regarding the fossil-fuel industry claims noted by Dana Milbank ("The 'benefits' of more CO2," Dec. 17): Yes, trees thrive on carbon dioxide, but they don't thrive on tornadoes, floods, and droughts. Ask the farmers in Southern California. I don't think they care too much for floods and tornadoes either.

|Richard F. Spahr, Ambler

Pipeline as neighbor

Regarding those cheering the building of the Mariner East pipeline ("Summit's message: Pipeline key in shale-energy revolution," Dec. 7): If they lived in some of the towns and neighborhoods in its path, I think their attitude would be very different. Some people will lose parts of their land behind their own homes, not to mention have to cope with the problems that come with living almost on top of a huge pipeline.

New York has just banned fracking due to serious concerns about its citizens' health and the dubious economic benefits. Crossing the state line into Pennsylvania doesn't eliminate those health problems.

How can adjoining states have such different views? Fracking should be banned here, too.

|JoAnn Williams, Media


No need to rush Comcast marriage

I note that U.S. Sens. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) have asked the Federal Communications Commission to expedite the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. They reiterate Comcast's dictum that it will benefit consumers. What was the last thing that Comcast did to benefit consumers?

You can bet the farm that this proposed merger will benefit Comcast and no one else. After all, the bigger you are, the less likely you are to fail, right? How did that work out for Lehman Bros.?

I've learned one thing about Comcast, and that is that if they're for it, I'm against it.

Let them make money the old-fashioned way: good products and good service at a reasonable price. Right now, they get a failing grade in both areas.

|Joe Orenstein, Philadelphia,


Challenging youths to consider public service

Last year, Ed and Midge Rendell launched the Rendell Center for Citizenship and Civics at Arcadia University and held their Citizenship Challenge for elementary school students. For the second year, my fifth-grade daughter's team from Cynwyd Elementary School was picked as a finalist to compete in the Citizenship Challenge. The challenge requires that students write an essay about an important issue related to voter participation and, if picked, to compete in the finals. They have to produce a skit or video that illustrates the issue and then respond to questions from a panel of judges, including the Rendells themselves.

Schools from all over the region compete in the contest, and the culminating event at the National Constitution Center provides a great focal point for discussion about the opportunities and challenges related to political leadership and civic engagement in today's society.

Due to their years of public service and their passion for fostering an engaged citizenship, the Rendells have figured out that to inspire a more robust pipeline of people going into public service, kids need to be inspired early, in elementary school.

It was amazing to see the result of their commitment to and passion for this cause in real time, as through the contest they are engaging kids in an inspiring and thought-provoking experience related to the key questions of how we govern ourselves. It is fascinating to get to observe how they are converting our youngest talented citizens into future leaders. For our family, this will be the Rendells' most exciting and important legacy.

|Laurie Actman, chief operating officer, Penn Center for Innovation, Philadelphia

Kickstarter for the federal government?

America can no longer wait for Congress to meet its education and infrastructure needs. So what if citizens could help by making a one-time donation to improve the country? Voluntary contributions of $5 to $500, depending on what you could afford, could add up to $20 billion or more. A private fund could be set up to deposit and distribute these dollars for education and bridge, road, rail, and airport improvements.

I'm retired and living on a fixed income, and yet I would gladly give as much as possible for this goal - and I'm sure others would, too. Giving all you can only once is better than a yearly tax increase to get these things done (knowing legislators would use those tax hikes for everything but what we want). I would like to know what other Inquirer readers think. Maybe we can get something started.

|Edward M. Moritz, Plymouth Meeting,


Despite new funding, parks access wanting

A hot topic for New Jersey politicians and those standing to benefit is the wellspring of funds from the new open-space-tax expansion. But in a recent exchange with local parks officials, I was told that swimming was no longer allowed at Burlington County's Pakim Pond because of potential liability for allowing access, and due to the fact that lifeguards are not in the budget. And Pakim Pond, they reported, is not an isolated case; there are many similarly unavailable park resources. What a sad state of affairs.

So before acquiring new land, maybe the state should make its open spaces usable for families.

|Joseph Springer, Southampton