Some of the statements quoted in the Sept. 3 article, “City makes a push for preschool,” are so outrageous that they must be questioned.

Portland Superintendent of Schools Jim Morse said that “About 52 percent of Maine lives in poverty.” What? Where did that figure come from? How is “poverty” defined to come up with that?

It is also asserted “by the Department of Defense” that “about 75 percent of young adults in America are unfit for military service, mostly because of academic weaknesses, obesity and arrest records.”

Even if that is accurate, if our public schools can’t prepare students for military service or employment in 13 years of education, why would we think that another year in the system would make a significant difference?

What is credible, and disturbing, is the statement that it would cost $9,000 to $10,000 per year per student to provide preschool. Think about it. Tuition for a year at the University of Southern Maine (30 credits) is less than $8,000.

Shifting some of the cost for preschool via “federal help or partnerships” won’t reduce the outrageous price of the program, just soak someone else.

Superintendent Morse needs to stop empire-building and figure out why his system and others can’t deliver a quality education for K-12 students. The problem lies there.

The capabilities of very young children and their parents in Maine have not deteriorated over the last few decades. The performance of our public schools (especially relative to cost) certainly has.

Ralph Dean

Freeport

Columnist ignored hazards of drilling for oil and gas

M.D. Harmon’s description of the drive he and his cousin took to view the drilling platform in the hills above her Williamsport, Pa., home probably didn’t alarm most readers. (“North America’s awash in oil and gas, so let’s go get it,” Aug. 26).

A cleared right of way; a bulldozed area resting in a saddle between two hills; a scene familiar to Mainers. Bury the pipes, install the pumps and begin extracting natural gas; good jobs and less dependence on foreign oil.

What Mr. Harmon didn’t fully disclose (did he not do his homework?) is that the “fracking” extraction process involves injecting up to a million gallons of water, laced with sand and toxic chemicals (exempt from the Clean Water Act), into the well bore of each well. This process breaks up the shale and releases the gas.

What remains is thousands of gallons of highly toxic wastewater which is stored in open holding ponds.

In Pennsylvania, the drillers are permitted to discharge the wastewater through sewage treatment plants into rivers, the source of drinking water. Radioactive pollutants, however, have been detected in the wastewater, pollutants which the treatment plants can’t filter out.

There is also concern about contaminated sludge and leaks in the holding ponds which allow the wastewater to seep into the water table. (“Regulations Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers,” New York Times, Feb. 27).

Mr. Harmon may want to think twice before he accepts a glass of tap water on his next trip to his cousin’s home.

In March, at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency, Pennsylvania requested 14 public water authorities and 25 wastewater plants to test for radium, uranium and other pollutants.

There are alternatives to fossil fuels; there is no alternative for clean drinking water.

Bob Wuerthner

Kennebunk

M.D. Harmon’s latest screed against common sense on drilling for oil and gas was typically irrelevant, presenting false choices and reaching its conclusion based on broad generalizations, cherry-picked “facts” and ignored science. Thankfully, the world Mr. Harmon so eloquently and frequently writes about is fictitious, at least currently.

But give the Press Herald’s imaginative provocateur-in-chief credit; he’s far more creative than most other shouting, myopic ideologues who angrily and ceaselessly parrot the right-wing’s talking points du jour 24/7.

Mr. Harmon has invented an Orwellian dystopia where environmentalists are derided as “Luddites” while avaricious oil, natural gas and coal company CEOs are lauded for their entrepreneurship.

Fortunately, most rational thinkers correctly see pursuing obscene profits at the risk of compromising the current and future health of our planet and its residents as stunningly selfish and shortsighted.

Only actual Luddites deny that burning fossil fuels speeds global warming, which raises the Earth’s average ground and water temperatures regardless of where the non-renewable resource(s) being incinerated originally came from.

If the would-be oligarchs Mr. Harmon consistently gushes over and their unwitting enablers truly wished to improve America, they’d bicycle, share rides or use mass transit when possible, stop buying gas-guzzling SUVs, eschew air-conditioning and heat their homes to a maximum of 65 degrees in wintertime rather than squandering energy braying at “liberals” and other imaginary scourges invented by profiteering demagogues.

Hurricane Irene was Maine’s latest reminder that placing capitalism over science is done at everyone’s peril.

If sea water temperatures (and levels) continue rising at their current rate, Mr. Harmon and like-minded would-be theocrats who maintain global warming is a hoax will soon need to choose between investing in mountaintop real estate or hoping the God they so fervently believe in will equip their descendants with gills.

Andrew D. Young

Cumberland

I am sitting here looking up oil and gas prices to see if I should buy now or wait to see if there is a possibility of declining prices. So I decided to check on the prices of oil and gas over the past two years.

This is what I found on Google. In July 2009, oil was $148 a barrel and gas was $4.28 a gallon. Last year around the same time, oil was $82 and gas went down to $2.78 a gallon.

Today oil is at $87 a barrel and gas is around $3.75 a gallon. This suggests to me that gas should be under $3 a gallon, and we wonder how these big companies are bringing in record profits.

Even by their own standards, they are putting it to us at a 75-cent-a-gallon raping of the public. I know what it is doing to me, and what is it doing to you?

That is $90 extra a month or $1,080 a year the big oil companies get from me. What about you!

Gary Stetson

Gray