Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Journalist who knows TVA well says: Sell it

Cumberland City Fossil
Plant (Roger Smith)
The suggestion in President Obama's budget that the Tennessee Valley Authority could or should be sold to reduce the federal debt seems unlikely to get very far, but one journalist who cut his teeth on covering the federal utility in the 1970s thinks it's time.

James Branscome writes in the Daily Yonder, "Dismantling TVA is no great challenge. It may not happen over the debt issue, but it should happen for an even greater and nobler reason: the failure of a dream, the corruption of key principles of democracy and the arrogance of power. This experiment has not raised the economic livelihood of its region to anything approaching the national average; in fact, its service territory is about at the same economic levels as the Appalachian region. Its power program is far less pioneering than many of the nation’s private utilities. Its leadership for the most part is uninspiring, and given the political spoils to be had, that is apt to get worse, not better. So, for the good of the people of the valley and the nation, let’s dismantle it."

Branscome's call is preceded by a succinct history of TVA, from its promises to its pitfalls, which should be required reading for everyone who uses TVA power. It is followed by some caveats, such as keeping rural electric cooperatives in TVA's region and giving its dams to the Army Corps of Engineers. He also notes, "The 201 counties in the TVA region will immediately gain new tax revenue to replace the in-lieu and low payments made by the agency." (Read more)

Branscome, of Montrose, Colo., is the retired managing director of equity research services for the Standard & Poor's division of McGraw-Hill Cos. He covered TVA and strip mining for The Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg, Ky., and is a member of the advisory board of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog.

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