To the editor:

If we as a nation were better informed and had better leadership, I believe we would be investing much more heavily in energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. We would be making these investments in the name of our overall national security. And we would be doing this regardless of the issue of global warming.

Fossil fuels are a finite resource. We've reached the point of andquot;peak oil.andquot; Global oil production has stagnated, while global demand is increasing. Because we import so much, the price and availability of oil are beyond our control.

The United States has extensive coal deposits, and we can use them to generate electricity for over 200 years. But, in the meantime, increasingly dangerous U.S. coal mining will be the cause of widespread environmental destruction, and, unless we change, coal burning will continue to be the source of 60 tons of poisonous mercury falling into our rivers and lakes each year.

It's time for us to gain control of our energy future, but we're actually falling behind. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), many European nations and Japan and China already have stricter standards than our new C.A.F.E. fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks that won't take full effect before 2020. The IEA also says that U.S. utilities should make more use of existing technology that could increase our coal plant efficiency by 20 percent.

A related issue is global warming. There are those who believe the current warming is andquot;natural.andquot; A Feb. 11 column by Charley Reese and a letter to the editor of Feb. 18 are recent examples. The way I see it, it is not at all natural that the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased by 35 percent since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Or that current levels of CO2 are now about 23 percent greater than at any time in the past 400,000 years, a period that includes four ice ages. Earth is at risk in uncharted territory.

But, global warming aside, we need to act now in the name of our national security.

Marshall McComb

Baker City