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What Big Accounting Firms Don't Teach You

Big oil's anti-ethanol stance is at least a beginning in making the public aware that use of biofuels may be counterproductive in reducing global warming ("Big Oil's big stall on ethanol," News & Insights, Oct. 1).

More independent studies detailing how much carbon is emitted by all processes involved in producing ethanol will show that substituting ethanol for petroleum is an expensive hoax. The studies should include tractor emissions in preparing and harvesting the ethanol source crop, fuel and crop haulage, as well as fuel used in processing the crop.

Let us not forget that destroying forest and grassland to make room for ethanol source cropland eliminates vegetation that cleans the air of carbon dioxide. Add the increased cost of foods that are based on corn. The only gainers from switching to ethanol are those promoting its introduction.

Roy Krusberg

Athens, Ga.

On our fancy Toyota Highlander, we have an onboard computer that keeps track of the miles and average fuel consumption. As we drive through the mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire, those figures vary from 22 to 27 mpg. Our senior-citizen driving style stays the same, but as we fill up at various stations, we can clearly notice a remarkable difference, approximately 10% or more.

The more ethanol we have in the tank, the fewer miles per gallon we seem to get. What then are the savings? We are all for a "green" world, but not if such endeavors like ethanol are so questionable.

Werner Rebsamen

Meredith, N.H.

David Kiley implies that the oil companies are against ethanol because it competes with gasoline. But they seem to be the only ones who understand that ethanol's low energy content means it cannot compete with gasoline. It won't be economical until oil prices go much higher.

The only ones who benefit from the corn-to-fuel scheme are the corn farmers and the ethanol companies. Consumers end up with higher food prices and poorer fuel economy, and the tax subsidies that are required to keep the cost low enough to sell the stuff add billions to the budget deficit.

Tom Keller

Henderson, Nev.

Your article erroneously claims that U.S. oil and natural gas companies are "trying to keep ethanol (E85) out of drivers' tanks." You ignore that less than 10% of the nation's 165,000 retail stations are owned by oil companies. For the remaining stations, the decision whether to sell E85 is made by independent businessmen and women individually assessing the economic cost and anticipated return of such a decision. Only 3% of the nation's cars and trucks can run on E85, so the market is limited.

A station owner, like any business owner, needs to see greater consumer demand for E85 in order to realize a return on his investment. However, demand for E85 is not robust because so few vehicles can safely use E85, and it carries an efficiency burden of 25% fewer miles per gallon.

Last year, industry used 25% more biofuel (mostly ethanol) than the government mandated. The most economic and practical use of ethanol is E10 fuel (containing 10% ethanol), which is already used in many parts of the country. Reliance on the marketplace, not government E85 mandates, is the best way to bring about increased ethanol use.

Red Cavaney, President & CEO

American Petroleum Institute


When will colleges understand that complicity with financial services firms is a very short-term view of how to save money ("Even cozier deals on campus," Finance, Oct. 1)? The unintended consequence of young alum indebtedness is the likelihood of reduced donations to alma maters, which would probably influence lower giving rates long after graduation.

Colleges that care about both students' fiscal health and higher donations could impose a "tough love" restriction on debit- and credit-card vendors: Students carrying loans for more than half of their tuition/expenses would be prohibited from accepting bank offers for debit cards and credit cards.

Jim Rowbotham

New York

As an alum of the University of Minnesota and a former employee of TCF Financial Corp. (TCB), I would like to emphasize how much the relationship between the university and TCF does for the students. The TCF student accounts can be opened with $1 and no minimum balance or fees, not to mention free checks. There is also no surcharge for company ATMs, and students are given a number of free withdrawals every month from outside ATMs. TCF's ATMs are plastered all over campus, free online banking is available, and regular branches are open until nine and on many holidays. There is no reason a student should overdraft with that much access to his or her accounts, and if they do overdraft, the fees are not any more than any other bank in the area. Your article also failed to mention that TCF is funding the new football stadium being built on campus.

Anna Hartberg

Kihei, Hawaii

As a management accounting professional, I was stunned by the results of "The best places to launch a career" (Cover Story, Sept. 24). While three of the Big Four accounting firms hold the top three slots, many recent graduates fail to realize these firms serve only the needs of the organization. After two to four years, most young accountants will leave to work in industry, without the skills needed for the next step in their career. Undergraduate accounting curriculums in the U.S. are largely focused on meeting the needs of public accounting rather than the much broader, richer knowledge and skill requirements of accounting professionals who work inside organizations as business partners helping to grow beans rather than merely count them.

Paul A. Sharman, CEO

Institute of Management Accountants

Montvale, N.J.

Your article "The big divide in tech support" (Managing, Sept. 17) makes some interesting points about companies that focus their IT support on an executive elite. But the story didn't go far enough in considering who really gets shortchanged when VIP support is confined to C-level executives. Those suffering the most are employees who directly drive revenue and, ultimately, the company's stakeholders.

Recent Unisys research found that the client-facing employees in the field depend most on a range of devices—increasingly, laptops and PDAs such as iPhone—to do their work and bring in money. That's up 57% from five years ago. Denying those users critical backup puts revenues and even brands at risk. By claiming the bulk of priority support for themselves, executives may be inadvertently harming the enterprises they lead.

Joseph E. Hogan

Unisys Corp. (UIS)

Blue Bell, Pa.

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