– Would Americans rather pay taxes to project 5th Fleet firepower in the Middle East, or invest those hard-earned dollars domestically to foment a transition from finite energy to renewable energy? Would we be spending so much blood and treasure in the region if not for the oil?

North America is rich in a variety of renewable and non-renewable resources. If we took all the money from the Iraq wars, Afghanistan and whatever we’re spending on all other Middle East oil protection, there would be enough resources to make America energy-independent.

Germany is an example of what can be achieved through heavy renewable energy investments. Since the early 1990s, they have installed more than 1 million solar energy systems and 26,000 wind turbines and now derive more than 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

In June 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made an emphatic case for the success of this approach by declaring they will now eliminate nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Is it an accident that Germany has one of the strongest economies in the world today?

In World War II, the United States showed the world what can be achieved by a unified, innovative and highly motivated population. In 2011, Germany is showing us the way.

It’s time for America to pull together around energy independence and make it unnecessary for leaders like President Obama to navigate the perilous waters of the Strait of Hormuz.

Phil Coupe

Cape Elizabeth

Lack of strong regulations raises risks from chemicals

For the second year in a row, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., has introduced a bill to address the urgent need for federal chemical reform.

The current law regulating chemicals in everyday products, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, is in desperate need of overhaul. It puts such burdens on the Environmental Protection Agency that since the law was passed, the EPA has been able to test only 200 of the more than 80,000 substances in its inventory.

Evidence is rapidly accumulating that the lack of strong federal chemical regulation is taking its toll on Americans. Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found more than 200 industrial chemicals in most Americans’ bodies.

With huge increases in chemical production and use, as well as advancements in our state of knowledge about how chemicals can harm human health and the environment, an update of the law is long overdue.

Meanwhile, the American Chemistry Council resists reform. Profits that could be used to research alternative chemicals are instead piled up under the guise of “business uncertainty.” Let chemical manufacturers know this: Americans want products that are safe for workers to produce, safe for consumers to use and safe for the environment!

Sen. Lautenberg’s latest bill, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S.847), needs additional sponsors to become law. Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have recently acknow-ledged the need for federal chemical reform but have stopped short of co-sponsoring the bill.

I urge Sens. Snowe and Collins to heed the call of their constituents for federal chemical reform and co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. At stake is the well-being of the American public and our ecosystems.

Sally Chappell

Bridgton

USM leaders must back up publicity efforts with data

The Press Herald has recently noted that the decline in enrollment at the University of Southern Maine far exceeds normal trends.

USM is now trying to boost enrollment, and USM President Selma Botman has had several recent columns in The Press Herald promoting the school. One of her columns referenced the success of about a dozen people who have graduated from USM over the past 30 years.

Ms. Botman certainly knows that picking a few success stories from tens of thousands of students is not a valid indicator of what a typical student will experience. Possibility is not the same as probability.

If Ms. Botman wants to educate people about the value of USM, then she should publish what students can really expect from a USM education.

Critical information would be the number and percentage of full-time students who receive job offers upon graduation; the type of job obtained, and related compensation. If people see favorable data, then that should certainly boost interest (and enrollment) in USM.

If no such data exists, then we are spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year with no clue as to if the money is being used wisely, while enrolling kids in programs and having them accrue debt, with no concern for the student outcome upon graduation.

I hope USM has and will publish this data in The Press Herald or will explain why that will not occur.

Dennis T. Caron

Cumberland Center

Portland’s spending calls for tea party restraint

Where is the tea party when you really need them? More than $30,000 for a park bench on Baxter Boulevard, and now $8,300 each for high-tech parking meters.

Leonard Giambalvo

Scarborough