Columnist Frank Newell is on temporary leave. Until he returns, we will reprint submissions from our archives. The following is reprinted from April 2011.

In last week’s column, we talked about how government officials and others in positions of authority are allowing certain organizations and individuals to control the price of gasoline and other petroleum products. The unreasonably high cost of fuel also directly affects the cost of almost everything else that we buy. The general public is fast becoming fed up with the obvious price gouging and the fact that the government is allowing it to happen.

The growing consensus of the middle class, largely blue-collar working people, which comprises by far the largest segment of this nation’s population (and voters), is beginning to feel that they have been quiet and patient long enough and beginning to demand action to relieve the hardship brought upon them by rich individuals becoming richer by causing them to become poorer. They strongly believe that it’s past time for our government to put an end to this thing that borders on extortion. The middle class people and the elderly are the ones most affected by it and are suffering the most.

The government should quickly do whatever it takes to bring down high fuel prices. If that requires taking over and running the fuel industry, thereby eliminating the speculators and middlemen, then so be it. If our elected officials don’t have the gumption to alleviate the pressing problem, then we should elect some who do. Believe me, the general public is tired of excuses and inaction.

I continue to be amazed at the public school controversy in Wake County. I have heard from neighbors and others whose families have been disrupted by the ongoing, prolonged debate over that county’s school system.

There are young children who have to wait for school buses before daybreak, and who get home after sundown. They have to get out of bed at an early hour, and who can argue that a drowsy child in class doesn’t perform and learn at his or her potential? Many children who are bussed for many miles and hours each day live within a few blocks of a school in their neighborhood. Way too many school children are pawns being used to fill quotas of one kind or another. Elected officials and hired administrators argue and shout back and forth with parents and others, and sometimes the police have to make arrests, all over where and what schools children will be required to attend.

It seems to me that a good and simple solution is to allow students to attend whatever school they and their parents want them to attend. The school system could publish a list of available schools and admit students on a first-come, first-served basis. By allowing for the will of the people, no one can complain or argue. There will be no need for quotas, forced bussing, angry meetings or bickering. There will be no sleepy students, and almost certainly grades and learning will improve. And there will emerge a thing that has been put aside, a thing deep inside students and parents, a thing called “neighborhood pride.”

Finally, a topic that should be of far greater concern than the price of gasoline, the schools dilemma or any other situation facing mankind today. I’m talking about the very real and very great danger posed by nuclear power plants scattered throughout this planet. Every one of them carries the potential ability to cause a catastrophic incident to human life and well-being. Let me state right off, that I am no expert on things nuclear. However, I know enough to be deeply worried, and I also know that there have already been at least two terrible disasters to which extent the general public doesn’t know the significance and long-term consequences to human health and life. Again, like the reasons for high fuel prices, we know only what we have been told, and you can believe that there is much we haven’t been told.

No matter what the experts say, the plants are not safe. No matter how well they are constructed, they are nothing compared to the forces of nature. We have been shown that very real fact. The nuclear plant closest to us in this area is almost identical to those in Japan. And what about suicidal terrorists with the ability and knowledge to blow them up?

Let’s not wait until it’s too late and what happened in Japan happens in our backyard. It most certainly can and will, sooner or later. The continued development of nuclear capability could lead to the end of the world. Not only should no new plants be constructed, but also the ones in existence now should be torn down. Sure, that would cause initial hardship, but hardship is better then death, sickness and suffering.

If our government would regulate and control the fuel industry, we would not need nuclear power. They say that every person in this country has a small amount of nuclear contamination in our bodies from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but the amount is so small that it poses no health danger. And we all will receive another small amount from the tragedy in Japan. However, I disagree with what they say. I believe that any amount of contamination does pose a health threat. If nature wanted that poison in our bodies, we would have been born with it.

It’s almost, but not quite, too late to do something about the nuclear situation. Let’s do it.