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Energy deal

EDITOR: People who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada down to Oklahoma should remember that the same company has had a pipeline in use for more than a decade from Canada. And that the lower half of the pipeline from Oklahoma to Houston is being built.

In fact, a pipeline from the North Dakota oil fields down to Oklahoma could easily be built if the Keystone XL pipeline is denied by President Barack Obama. So 90 percent of this oil pipeline would be built.

Obama has an opportunity to do an energy deal with the Republicans in the House and Senate: approve the Keystone XL pipeline and other oil and gas incentives for substantially increasing renewable energy especially solar and decreasing the use of coal as an energy source.

This country will continue to be a big user of oil and gas for at least the next 20 years. But increasing renewable energy as a federal policy would be a big plus in cutting down the use of carbon and air pollution in this country.

ANDREW SMITH

Santa Rosa

Separating institutions

EDITOR: The current drama in the U.S. Supreme Court highlights the residual historical conflation of church and state and the subsequent confusion about gay marriage. Marriage, a Christian sacrament, like baptism and confirmation, was originally embedded in cultures with no separation of church and state. As we continue to separate the two institutions, we will need to create equivalents. In the case of marriage, we have begun to create civil unions. However, they remain poor substitutes as they don't confer all the protections of marriage.

The court could help clarify the issue by encouraging government to create a full equivalent civil union for those who want the legal protections, with a strictly sacramental marriage only obtainable via a church. Many churches would be willing to marry gay as well as heterosexual couples, but the civil rights and legal implications would no longer be the focus.

It's time we took the next step in untangling the commingling of church and state, and let each of them be in charge of their own separate domains.

JOSEPH CUTLER

Sonoma

Morale booster

EDITOR: I'd like to comment on Trudy McMahon's letter ("The wrong message," Tuesday) in which she pronounces herself "aghast" at what she perceives of as mistreatment of girls at the Cardinal Newman High basketball rally ("Winning spirits," Saturday).

Aghast (adjective): struck with terror, amazement, or horror.

Even if her perception of misogyny is correct, and I don't believe it is, isn't the use of the word aghast hyperbole? How about dismayed, disappointed, even angered?

Can she not appreciate the joy in the faces of all involved — especially the mothers, who, most likely, were once girls themselves.

This was a simple morale-boosting prank, not an attack on girls.

JEFFREY A. RAPP

Healdsburg

Protecting the park

EDITOR: The Press Democrat recently reported a bike accident in Annadel State Park on what was called euphemistically called an "unofficial" trail ("Fallen cyclist rescued in dark at Annadel," March 19).

Let's call it what it really is: an illegal bike track and an increasing problem degrading the natural environment in the park.

This accident highlights just one of the reasons why state park regulations prohibit bikers from creating and riding on these trails. Other reasons include: pushing out wildlife, creating erosion, fouling seasonal streams, spreading invasive species, scarring sensitive habitat and creating an eyesore of branching and crisscrossing tracks.

Taking decades to heal, many such tracks have been thoughtlessly created in the park's sensitive wetland meadows by bikers insensitive to the delicate nature of these areas.

Park regulations are clear to all bikers: stay on seasonally open and established trails or risk injury, citation by park officials or both. Give wildlife a break and help preserve the park resource for future generations.

GARY SCHOUEST

Santa Rosa