Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lower Speed Limits are Better for the Environment

Lower speed limits mean cars release fewer of the carbon emissions that hurt Texans' health and alter landscapes, including those beautiful stretches along the lonely roads in West Texas. 
photo: Liz Farmer

In Thomas Brown’s Texas Government Blog, Brown tries to persuade readers that increasing highway speeds in Texas is an improvement for drivers. The title of his blog, ‘85 MPH is plenty safe,’ sets the tone for his argument that increasing speed limits would not be a safety problem in rural Texas. However, Brown’s piece does not confront the bigger issue that comes along with increased speed limits: carbon emissions. By increasing speeds, Texas would be signing off on increasing carbon emissions. Texas ranks the highest in carbon dioxide emissions of all the states, according to Texas on the Brink. About a third of the state’s carbon emissions come from transportation and “by some estimates more than half of all Texans live in areas where the air is unsafe to breathe, as defined by the EPA's Clean Air Act,” according to The Daily Beast. This issue far exceeds any annoyance people might have with the speed limits. It also is an issue that affects everyone in the state, not just those driving along rural roads. 

This problem should factor in on determining speed limits for future roads and for speed limits on existing roads. Brown suggests that increasing speed limits would decrease the amount of state money needed to enforce them. However, there will still be a need for cops to enforce the speed limit, even if the speed limit is faster. If we’re going to talk about saving money then it’s important to consider the financial benefits of lowering speed limits and therefore reducing the rate by which carbon emissions increase. Overall, it would save the state money in the long run to decrease the rate at which carbon emissions are increasing and to not have to try to fix as many environmental repercussions later on. Speed limits should not be increased just because people may “already speed on many rural roads,” as Brown suggests. Laws are in place to improve society in the present and prepare for the future, not just match the impulsive desires of some people. Therefore, it’s important that Texas begin to decrease the rate by which carbon emissions increase. One mechanism in accomplishing this is to decrease speed limits and enforce the limits. This is important for the health of the state’s environment and the health of Texans. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Stop Executions of Innocent People

The Texas justice system must be overhauled. 
Texas legislators must pass a bill making executions illegal. It is shameful that this practice has continued this long. During Gov. Rick Perry’s 12 years, the state has executed a staggering 245 convicts, according to the Texas Tribune. Putting Texans to death allows no room for error in a system where humans call the shots. Throughout the years, a few of those wrongly convicted on death row have been cleared of the charges and left to figure out how to go on after these horrific events. They are the lucky ones. 

The not so lucky ones? They’re the ones whose names were cleared after a needle pumped their veins with a lethal injection they knew they never deserved. Others will never get their names cleared. 

Kerry Max Cook was one of the “lucky” ones. Cook was wrongly convicted for Linda Jo Edwards’ rape and murder in 1977. Finally, Cook was released in 1997. “In the years after, every piece of evidence used to convict Cook was revealed to be bogus,” according to the Texas Tribune. This man was almost murdered for a murder he never convicted. There’s your non-bogus evidence that the justice system is broken. Let’s fix it.

Texas has one of the highest rates of executions and recently, confronted troubles in buying lethal injections (the European factories where the injections would have been made insisted that they not be used for executions). The state has turned to using an injection generally used for animal euthanasia. These are unnecessary concerns for the state to focus on.

Unfortunately, human error, bribery, and tampering with evidence will always occur in the justice system. But there is a way to stop executions of innocent people: limit convictions for top offenders to life in prison and put down the injections for good.

Kerry Max Cook, who wrongly sat on death row, holds his book Chasing Justice.