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June 12, 2000 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2000-06-12

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 12, 2000
students at the g Editor in Chief JOSH WICKERHAM
University of Michigan ' Editorial Page Editors 0
tnless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the
420 Maynard Street majoritr of the Dailys editorial board. 411/other articles, lettersand
Ann Arbor, Ml 48109 cartoons do not necessarihr reflect the opinion of The Michigan Dailv

Fuel for thought
Moving beyond our oil dependence

Failing the test
Admissions testing should be reconsideredo

M otorists are starting to feel the pinch
of higher gas prices this summer,
with many cities now seeing prices sur-
pass the $2 per gallon mark. While expla-
nations for the rise vary, some blame a
new "clean" gas additive introduced by the
Environmental Protection Agency to
reduce pollution, although EPA estimated
an increase of only 10 to 15 cents per gal-
lon due to this new additive.
Others blame gas price increases on
rising demand. But we are only weeks into
the summer driving season and many ana-
lysts are predicting an increase in summer
travel, largely due to the prosperous U.S.
economy. Still, our economy, which pro-
duces one gas-guzzling SUV or truck for
every other new vehicle sold, is largely
dependent on oil aid gasoline. By main-
taining this dependence on gas for trans-
portation, distribution and d fense or,
in short, our entire standard of living-
we paint ourselves into a corner of
resource extraction than poses significant
threats to the earth as well as our long-
term sustainability.
Environmental concerns such as global
warming, air pollution, acid rain, oil spills
and greater risks of skin cancer worldwide
are largely due to our business as usual
approach to oil consumption. The U.S., as
the world's biggest polluter, has a respon-
sibility to curtail its oil use and implement
alternative fuel technologies.
Sustainable alternative energy sources
already abound. Solar power, for example,
needs only be implemented on a wide
scale to put it in the hands of consumers.
In place of the corporate welfare payments
and tax breaks that go to support major oil
companies, government subsidies could
fund efforts to bring down the manufac-
turing costs of solar powered energy sys-
tems. According to Ralph Nader, the
Green Party Presidential candidate, con-
tracted use of solar technology by govern-
ment agencies could build the manufac-
turing base necessary to bring the cost of
solar power down to competitive levels. If
even one branch of the government, such
as the military, implemented solar tech-
nology, the economies of scale could be
tipped enough to benefit sustainable solar
power over non-renewable oil resources.
As another alternative, hydrogen fuel
cell technologies, with continued research
and support, can gain inroads toward mak-
ing the internal combustion engine obso-
lete. This technology extracts the hydro-
gen from water or other sources to fuel
clean-burning engines that produce little
to no pollution.
Automakers predict that fuel cell tech-
nology, while still in its infancy, may be on
the road in five to ten years. Whether sup-
ported out of environmental necessity or
through the common sense of sustainabil-
ity, this technology gives hope of a future

void of our current reliance on oil.
As a viable short-term solution to the
present fuel crunch, people should consid-
er driving smaller cars or buying hybrid-
electric vehicles, like the Honda Insight,
which are capable of reaching fuel econo-
my of 60 miles per gallon. With roads
hogged by behemoth SUVs, smaller, more
efficient cars reflect environmentally con-
scious decision-making.
The environmental costs of our unfet-
tered oil consumption cannot be overstat-
ed. Our oil use is producing short-term
gains at a terrible price to our ecosystem.
At this juncture of environmental anxi-
ety, a four-year study on the effects of
global warming by htndreds of concerned
scientists and 12 government agencies
will be presented to Congress this week.
fhe report assesses the positive and nega-
tive effects ot an expected 5 to 10-degree
temperancire rise m-er the next century.
Among other ominous predictios, it says
we can expect the partial exaporation of
the Great Lakes, a rise in insect-borne dis-
eases like malaria, the death of sugar
maples and other native plants in the north
as well as the disappearance of islands,
marshes and coastline due to rising ocean
levels. Already assailed by some as too
pessimistic, it represents the most exten-
sive study of its kind.
Through this litany of environmental
concerns we can see the path that our
dependence on fossil fuels is leading.us
down. It seems clear that nothing but a
concerted effort to promote and imple-
ment sustainable alternative energy tech-
nologies can afford us the time necessary
to repair the damage we have brought
By spearheading efforts to reform our
oil obsession with smart, long-term eco-
nomic choices, we can create a future not
dominated by the specter of impending
environmental crisis.
To do this requires a commitment to
new technologies as well as an involve-
ment in Congressional affairs. Big oil,
with its army of lobbyists, presents a for-
midable opposition to alternative energy
implementation. Calling or e-mailing con-
gressmen with concerns about alternative
energy may be the best way to get results.
While expensive gas may provoke reac-
tionary stances like pressuring oil-produc-
ing countries to increase production, cut-
ting gas taxes or removing the EPA's pol-
lution-reducing -gas additives, the best
approach is that which takes into account
the viable alternatives within reach. As a
culture that is pushing the boundaries of
its technological sustainability, we have an
obligation to implement alternative energy
solutions. A few extra dollars spent on
alternative fuel implementation now could
save us untold of billions in environmental
costs in the future.

M ount Holyoke College last week
became the latest in the growing num-
ber of schools to stop using the Scholastic
Aptitude Test in its admissions process.
Concerns over biases in the test prompted the
decision by the Massachustts college. The
University of Michigan should follow the
lead taken by Mount Holyoke and other
schools and stop placing so much, if any,
weight on standardized tests in admissions.
Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT
always have been the most suspect and least
accurate method used by colleges to screen
applicants. Too often, standardized tests are
merely a test of a student's ability to pay for
a preparatory course and not their ability to
succeed in college. This problem, along with
biases in the tests, has resulted in aggregate-
ly and artificially lower scores for women
and minorities. Everyone, including the wit-
eras themselves, admit the tests are flawed.
The Unixersity began examining altema-
tive types of tests this year such as the Bial-
Dale College Adaptability Index, which it
administered to some applicants for this fall's
incoming class. This exam tests applicants in
skills not measured by standardized tests -
such as leadership - and is aimed at identi-
fying students who have the ability to suc-
ceed in an academic environment.
The Bial-Dale Index seems promising
because it measures non-cognitive skills and

includes interviews - "tests" whose scores
are far more difficult to manipulate than an
SAT or ACT score. Without this or another
new test, the University should stop placing
so much weight on standardized tests relative
to the four-year academic and extracurricular
high school records of applicants. These
tests, while measuring academic ability to an
extent, are so predictable in their content and
form that anyone able to shell outa few hun-
dred dollars can easily learn how to receih
higher scores on them.
Considering a halt to using SAT and ACT
scores in admissions is especially worthwhile
in light of the impending lawsuits against the
University's use of race-based affirmative
action in admissions. These tests have proven
to understate the academic potential of
minorities. In order to continue diversity on
this campus should affirmative action be
ended, steps such as ending the use of stal
dardized tests or implementing non-discrim-
inatory ones will be necessary.
The Bial-Dale Index or any other new test
that can be developed is will surely have its
own problems. But it is a step away from the
highly flawed standardized tests now used.
The University currently places too much
weight on standardized test scores. Given the
tests' glaring and acknowledged friction with
the University's ideals, current standardized
testing needs to be reconsidered.

A better phone bill
Proposed regulations save callers money


state Senate panel is considering a bill
proposed by Governor Engler pushing
for phone deregulation that would ease the
costs of telecommunications service to con-
sumers. The issue will be debated for anoth-
er week in the Senate before the issue can
move forward. Included in the debate is the
Governor's plan to cut rates by five percent
as well as eliminate a monthly access fee of
$3.28 that Ameritech currently charges with-
out state approval. This measure is a good
step forward in easing the burden of costs
imposed on users by a consolidating
telecommunications industry.
Phone regulations are direly needed.
After years of consolidation, competition
has decreased to the point where consumers
will continue to be worked over by phone
companies without these efforts. Monitoring
of the telecom industry-with its myriad of
esoteric access fees and insidiously manipu-
lative hidden charges-is necessary.
Such proposals and regulatory efforts
have worked on a national level. Last week,
AT&T worked out a deal with the Federal
Communications Commission to lower
access fees and other charges incurred by
consumers when making local calls. Though
AT&T raised rates for many customers by as

much as 163 percent the same day as the
cost-cutting measures were announced by
the FCC, fighting rate hikes is a task more
easily managed by consumer group@
Because of pressure from such groups,
AT&T soon changed its rate hike plans.
Locally, though, Ameritech has been
fighting the state-sponsored regulations with
highly questionable and probably illegal
means. This week the company allegedly
threatened high-ranking Republican state
senator Mike Rogers. After Ameritech offi-
cials failed to convince Rogers to vote
against Engler's proposed regulations, an
Ameritech lobbyist threatened to put 1,000
employees to work for his opponent's car
paign. Despite the obvious unethical bui-
ness practices, this allegation highlights
increasingly frequent corporate disregard for
the regulatory process.
These state and national regulatory
efforts are necessary for consumers. They
come at a time when consumer advocates
say Ameritech could raise its monthly access
rates another dollar per month without
Engler's state-imposed regulations propos
This proposed Michigan legislation is a pos-
itive step towards reducing absurdly high,
access fee-inflated monthly phone bills.

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