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May 30, 1979 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1979-05-30

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Page 4-Wednesday, May 30, 1979-The Michigan Daily

N Michigan Daily
Eighty-nine Years of Editorial Freedom
420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, M. 48109
Vol. LXXXIX, No. 20-S News Phone: 764-0552
Edited and managed by students
at the University of Michigan
Dopers get relief
THE STATE SENATE was confined to its
chambers last week until it passed a bill
which would ease penalties for possession of small
amounts of marijuana. The diluted version finally
passed by a 20-14 vote and would make possession
of 30 grams (one ounce) or less a civil offense
punishable by a maximum $100 fine. The bill's
supporters unfortunately had to dispense with
decriminalization efforts in order to gain support
for the more conservative legislation.
While compromising on legislation is a laudable
political practice, it is unfortunate that the bill
sent to the House still proposes stiffer penalties
than necessary. It is sad to see such heated debate
and compromising occur in 1979, when the myths
of marijuana's effects should long since have
been dispelled. It has taken reduced penalty
proponents two years and three bills to get this
far, and this inadequate draft still holds an uncer-
tain future in the state House.
Use of marijuana is widespread and increasing.
Most reports state that it poses less serious or
equivalent health hazards to those of alcohol and
tobacco. Yet both those substances carry less
stringent penalties and are widely accepted by
society and politicians.
Minors who consume alcoholic beverages are
subject to a first violation fine of not more than
$25; second and third offenses carry $50 and $100
fines respectively along with participation in a
substabce abuse prevention program. Tobacco
users have to contend only with a perfunctory
warning on the side of the cigarette package -
the effeet of which is insignificant at best.
Politicians must deal with marijuana as the
permanent fixture in today's society that it is, not
as a fad that maturity eliminates.
Ann Arbor is a case exhibiting the lack of
grounds for fears of reducing pot penalties. City
voters approved a $5 marijuana fine six years
ago, and no drastic changes have resulted from it.
Fears that the town's reputation as dope capital of
the midwest would lead to its demise have
dissolved as use of the substance has been taken
in stride. Enforcing the law is no longer a police
priority since the fine does not cover the expense
of issuing the ticket. Police view the fine's propor-
tions as a guide to enforcement emphasis and
have accordingly dwelled on crimes of greater
consequence.
Despite widespread pot use, crime has
diminished in Ann Arbor in recent years, while
drug trafficking has not noticeably increased.
While there may be no correlation between crime
reduction and marijuana smoking,. at least the
mild fine has not led to less law and order.
The fears of Ann Arbor residents have been
allayed by the results of reduced penalties, and a
similar impact would be witnessed -
statewide-state House permitting. To maintain
unrealistic penalties for this victimless crime is
unfair to the millions of otherwise non-criminal
citizens.

Wall St. bucks nukes

SAN FRANCISCO- Although
official conclusions have yet to be
drawn from the Three Mile
Island nuclear accident, the
plant's shut cooling valves may
have permanently stunted the
growth of the struggling nuclear
power industry worldwide.
"You're talking about finan-
cing a lot of nukes that may be
postponed or cancelled," one
utility analyst said.
"Everybody's going to take a
good hard look at what's going to
happen in Pennsylvania."
In the United States, investors
have withdrawn from the stocks
of companies whose revenues
depend on nuclear power, while
abroad countries that once looked
to a nuclear future are having
second thoughts.
WEST GERMANY has in-
definitely postponed construction
of a huge nuclear reprocessing
plant at Gorleben, near the East
German border, which was to
have been the key to maintaining
its atomic fuel supply. At the
same time, Switzerland has voted
in a national referendum to make
the licensing of any new nuclear
plant dependent on a vote of
parliament -a vote that is likely
to be "no" in the climate of fear
created by the Three Mile Island
accident.
But while signs of resistance to
nuclear power are multiplying
among investors and the public
alike, they only accentuate a
trend away from nuclear which
has been growing for the past five
years in all but some in-
dustrializing countries like
Brazil, Taiwan and South Korea.
According to the International
Atomic Energy Agency, new or-
ders for nuclear generating
stations around the world peaked
at 52 in 1974. Only 15 new plants
were ordered last year.
"The nuclear industry is in
serious trouble. It is a business no
one in his right mind would enter
today," said John Minzinga, vice
president of General Atomic, a
nuclear equipment manufacturer
owned by Shell and Gulf Oil.
GENERAL ELECTRIC CO.,
the largest nuclear equipment
supplier in the United States, was
losing $20 million to $25 million a
year on reactors even before
Three Mile Island.

By Mark Blackburn
And although many American
utilities, including Consolidated
Edison in Illinois and Pacific Gas
& Electric in California, have
financial commitments to
nuclear running into the millions
if not billions of dollars, the signs
of a slowdown have long been
evident.
One indication of a new public
mood is that the United States,
and much of the rest of the world,
is backing away from nuclear
power in the midst of an oil crisis
that once provided nuclear with
its raison d'etre. Spokesmen for
the nation's electric utilities are
clearly worried at the change in-
public attitude.
"We faced a specter of spot
shortages of power long before
Three Mile Island," said Walter
Bron of the National Electric
Reliability Council, a Princeton,
N.J., research organization. "But
now we're talking about much
more serious widespread
problems by the early to mid-
1980s if those nuclear plants don't
come in on schedule," he added,
referring to 24 U.S. atomic power
reactors planned to come on line
by 1981.
BROWN'S ARGUMENT is not
new, but what is different is that
few politicans now suggest that
the world oil shortfall should in-
crease the nuclear priority.
Even Clifton Garvin, Jr.,
chairman of Exxon Corp., the
world's biggest oil company, is
dubious about a nuclear future he
himself. favors, "I believe we'll
have to find a way to handle these
things safely," he said, referring
to commercial reactors. "A lot of
people don't agree."
While predictions remain un-
changed that world oil supplies
will be exhausted in 60 to 80
years, the probable alternative for
generation of electric power is
seen as coal, not nuclear. This is
a trend that has kept pace with
dwindling nuclear orders over
the past five years even though
coal too faces objections-mainly
from environmentalists.
"If anything is ordered these
days," said a student of the
nuclear industry, "it's coal-
fired."

IN THE MEANTIME, finan-
cing for nuclear power in this
country is beginning to dry up.
The Bank of America, the
world's, largest commercial
bank, recently threw a fresh
scare into an already tottering
industry by announcing that until
an investigation of Three Mile
Island is complete, it will make
no new loans for construction of
atomic power plants.
At the same time, bank sources
indicated that the B of A is
making no new investments in
nuclear industry stocks and may
be selling some off.
And some U.S. utilities with
long-standing nucler expansion
plans have found money in-
creasingly expensive. Last mon-
th investors not only forced
Virginia Electric & Power Co. to
pay increased interest on a $100
million nuclear construction bond
issue, but underwriters charged
the company $1 million-a third
more than usual-to market
them.
One of the facts of life seen
clearly in the investment com-
munity is the ever-increasing
cost of new atomic plants.
"I for one don't see how we'll
get along without sizeable
nuclear power in this country,"
said a San Francisco investment
analyst. "But every time you
turn around, your capital costs
ate going up."
"This will eventually make
nuclear plants economically
disadvantageous at some point,"
he added.
Charles Komanoff, a New York
energy consultant who opposes
nuclear power, believes that by
1990 nuclear power plants will
cost twice as much to build as
coal-fired plants, while the elec-
tricity they produce will be a
third again as expensive as the
coal-fired competition.
A sign of the times may be the
behavior of the stock- of Com-
bustion Engineering, Inc., the
only one of the four major U.S.
makers of nuclear equipment
whose shares have risen since
Three Mile Island. Combustion is
number four in nuclear but num-
ber one as a supplier of coal-fired
plants.
Mark Blackburn, a former Reuters
correspondent, wrote this piece for
Pacific News Service.

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