TVA – in the crosshairs again
March 26, 2013

So again, we come to another crossroads concerning the Tennessee Valley Authority. There have been so many “crossroads” and opportunities missed that one wonders if most citizens couldn’t care less about the ever-heating water TVA ratepayers are in, like the frog not recognizing he has already been cooked.

This latest crossroad comes with Pres. Obama’s renomination of Marilyn Brown to the TVA board. His first renomination failed when both Tennessee senators objected and blocked it earlier this year. Brown becomes the “whipping boy” for the administration, which advocates climate control and a cap on carbon both of which she agrees with through “energy efficiency.” This is a buzz phrase meaning more government control over the lives of nine million citizens in the TVA territory.

When decisions about their use of electricity emanates from Washington, it is evident that government knows best; go ahead and pay a fair share for your electricity for the good of all. This, of course, is anathema to the way American’s feel about their government. And that sets up a battle between the Obama ideology and the basic principles that drive American citizens; entrepreneurship, self-reliance and competitiveness.

The TVA is not representative of any of these and is, in fact, clearly anti competitive. TVA has driven competition out of the TVA territory by reducing rates unsustainable by private enterprise. Despite these incursions, TVA has been unable to match or meet present electricity rates of some surrounding utilities.

One reason for this is that TVA has been used as a vehicle for behavioral change such as the incentivized use of wind and solar energy. Some wind-powered electricity comes to TVA via subsidies from the Dept. Of Energy to the suppliers. This clearly is a violation of federal law that prohibits TVA from receiving congressional appropriations although indirectly.

As a federal arm of the administration, TVA has the power of eminent domain, the forcible taking of private property, among other advantages. Just the underlying threat of eminent domain has been a powerful tool unavailable to those standing in the way of TVA. Most significant is the anti-competitive position of TVA; it talks “competitiveness” but acts as a federal power; it has effective electric rate control over 80,000 sq. miles of southern land and all of its communities in seven states. TVA has accumulated debt of $30 billion, which is the responsibility of ratepayers, not taxpayers.

TVA presents a basic problem of the agency since 1933. Should TVA direct the planning and distribution of electricity for 9 million citizens thru the central government or should the market-driven free enterprise system do it?

The battle-lines have been drawn (again.) The Congress is in a position to get the South on track again with common sense legislation for a free people; to move out of the way and let the free-market decide which is the better way.

Marilyn Brown just happens to hold the Obama ground of more government-directed behavioral change and the rest of most of us who want less government, particularly of the TVA type, and to give that sovereign ground back to state control.

Ernest Norsworthy
Limited Government

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