Dear Editor, Good luck to Peter Morrison of the Innovation Station who has created a solid fuel from leaves as an alternative renewable fuel (Post, February 20).
His project draws attention to two issues: firstly that vegetation is nature's supreme solar panel - turning carbon dioxide, water and sunshine into a source of infinitely renewable energy. Secondly, that burning 'waste' vegetation to release energy may be better than consigning it to landfill or even compost where it rots to form carbon dioxide or methane but without yielding any usable energy.
Most people have worries about global warming and how to combat it. We make efforts to recycle, to walk more, to insulate more - but there is a sneaking feeling that this is unlikely to have any major effect - given that air travel is increasing, China opens a new coal-fired power station weekly, and the world population is increasing.
Some pin their hopes on technical advances but to date, with the arguable exception of nuclear power, most of these have not been very convincing. Financially viable carbon capture and storage is probably several decades away; wind farms attract widespread objections; biofuels are probably more of a threat than a useful addition (Post, January 15). Tidal, wave power and second generation biofuels are as yet undeveloped.
Coal is fossil vegetation: it is also the most polluting fuel used in electricity generation. Coal is being partly replaced by wood products in some UK coal-burning power stations; there are also wood-burning-only units. The leading fuel is coppiced willow but additionally forestry, building and garden waste; imported wood from renewable forests is also employed.
We need to consider whether we could devote more effort to increasing the amount of UK land utilised for coppiced wood production, to more efficient garnering of garden and industrial waste, to harvesting trimmings from rural hedgerows and woodlands and most dead wood. Most trees and bushes when pollarded, pruned or lopped grow even more vigorously, increasing the uptake of greenhouse gases.
Might it be more appropriate for developing countries to produce sustainable wood products, rather than Valentine roses and out-of-season vegetables?
It is also vital that worldwide deforestation is halted.
BARRIE SMITH, Erdington
Making the sick fit for work
Dear Editor, So what type of financial inducements are the Government going to pay doctors to make sick people fit for work? Since when did doctors become skilled in job placement or occupational therapy?
This is yet another back-door way of forcing sick people off benefits and creating labour for short-term contracts. Most long-term benefit claimants, are not able to hold down jobs, most long-term claimants wouldn't be given a job unless it was so badly paid and under-protected no one else wanted it.
Where are these jobs that don't recognise sick pay, holiday pay, pensions, health and safety at work or any other of the normal safeguards for its workers?
Politicians live and work in an artificial environment, with high salaries, high pensions, expense fiddles, two homes, car allowances, health plans and even subsidised meals - they know little of the real world.
It's always the most vulnerable in our society that are attacked. The Government should focus on the super rich and their tax fiddles, or the lazy royals - or what about the corrupt MPs under their noses?
Why is it always the sick and weak who must become the target of a Government so corrupt it can't even tell the public about its expenses.
SYDNEY VAUGHAN, Yardley Wood
Design and build
Dear Editor, It's good to hear that the building work for the new library is due to start on November 24 next year, although I had to do a slight double take - because the design of the building hasn't even been decided yet (Date for library start - and finish, Post February 22).
Is it just me, or does this council seem to do everything in a different order to every other council in the country?
Most people tend to prefer the much simpler approach of deciding a plan and then setting a date to implement it.
But then it's good to be different... isn't it?
BILL BLAKE, Birmingham
There is no place for the ultimate punishment
Dear Editor, Justice has been seen to be done and the serial killer Steven Wright will spend the rest of his days behind bars.
Understandably, some of the relatives of his victims have called for the return of capital punishment.
Most people, myself included, would yearn for the ultimate punishment (the death sentence) for a person so vile after suffering from the torment of losing a loved-one in this way.
But society's legal system cannot be laid down by people suffering from such anguish and torment.
By bringing back the death sentence society becomes precisely what it is trying to eradicate.
One only has to look at America for this to be borne out.
There would also be the inevitable death row documentaries on the TV and tasteless tabloid coverage of each execution.
Then there is always that last shadow of doubt regarding hanging an innocent man - the recent case of Steven Downing who spent 27 years of his life in prison for a murder he did not commit is one of several that make uncomfortable reading for all of us.
In the case of Steven Wright the weight of evidence seems over-whelming and, if it is any comfort to the relatives, a quick death for this particular monster would be too good anyway.
Maybe they can take a crumb of comfort to know that the loss of his liberty for the rest of his life will be enhanced, no doubt, by the warm welcome he will receive from his fellow prisoners as the killer of five defenceless young women.
ANDREW JONES, Coleshill
The facts about canals
Dear Editor, It was interesting to read a former mayor's comments on the recent feature about Oldbury in the Weekend section (A glimpse of old Oldbury, Post Weekend February 18.)
Despite what he says, however, there was (somewhat irrelevantly) a photograph of a canal scene in the Lifford area of Birmingham. It was taken on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal in about 1900.
There never was a Lifford Canal, nor for that matter was there a Titford Canal, although there was (and still is) the Titford branch of the Birmingham Canal.
The main line of the canal itself was wholly opened in 1772, followed by the branch in 1837.
I can't really understand why people have such difficulty with facts about the canals. All you need is a library of one hundred or so books, and a moderately good memory. Nothing to it really.
STANLEY HOLLAND, Bournville