Tennessee v. Michigan

Churches: Lots and lots. The little ones look like big churches. The big ones look like big cathedrals, warehouses or the Pentagon. Which reminds me, I wanted to look up exactly what a Primitive Baptist is after I saw one of their church signs.

Automotive: Nissan v. Ford/GMC. On the road, people use short beeps instead of long honks. Slow cars (like mine when my transmission acts up) are tolerated. Sometimes, I thought the police were preparing to pull me over when I was only trailing some private citizen who was simply following instead of zooming around me.

Weather: Well, Kalamazoo has a Patchy Frost weather advisory for Monday; Murfreesboro does not, heh heh. The sun down here is intense, though we have not seen much of it lately; the cloud cover and rain have been near constant for about two weeks. I thought I saw a lot of people carrying umbrellas when I came down here, and I note now that Nashville gets about fifty inches mean annual precipitation compared to Kalamazoo's thirty-five. Mean annual air temperature is fifty-seven here compared to thirty-seven back home.

Power: The microwave has the current time on it and had it when I moved in. I am pretty sure no one in the apartment besides myself could care or know about adjusting the time. Ergo, the power in Tennessee rarely browns out.

Let me state that again. The electricity in Tennessee has never browned out while I have been here. No dimmings as if the Atlas that holds up the grid just shifted the weight on his shoulders. No substation switchings that blank everything and cause thousands of generators to cough to life. None of that. Power generation and usage in Tennessee and Michigan are quite different. Through the 1990s, power useage in Michigan was steady at 98 Mwh (million watthours) while Tennessee's grew from 76 to 93 Mwh.

The most interesting thing about Tennessee is that nuclear power provides twice the watthours as in Michigan. 74.6% of power in Michigan is fossil fuel-based compared to only 60% in Tennessee. In fact, hydroelectric and nuclear showed growth in TN (after the nationwide post-Three Mile Island stagnation), while the only move in Michigan was to increase the capacity share of natural gas. Obviously, Michigan's hydro power potential is limited but that is all the more reason to strengthen the atomic sector.

Yes, the Tennessee Valley Authority is supposedly "Socialism done right." But note that TVA, though government-owned, has been self-financing since it expanded into non-hydro in 1959 and has several times heavily slashed its employment rolls to hold costs down, very unlike a government or union monopoly. Until Robert A. Heinlein's Shipstones (nearly perfect batteries, available in almost any size, in his sci-fi novel Friday) become a reality and you buy your power off a delivery truck that replaces the Shipstone in your basement just as the coal and fuel oil companies resupplied your coal and oil, power must always be distributed over wires: those wires are the prime sticking point between public and private.

Thus, some company will always have power access to your street and home. The only question is, how do we assign which territory to which power company? With TVA, the decision was made to assign territory using the "facts on the ground": the Appalachians and the Tennessee Valley were used to define a territory and a company was formed by government, rather than by private interests, to gain and apply the Federal power over navigable rivers. TVA pays tax equivalents and issues bonds instead of stock to finance new growth. The company may hire and fire as any private company might, protected by the Right to Work law in Tennessee. Interestingly, though the board of directors is listed at their website, how those directors are appointed is not.

I do not think these are the reasons for TVA's success: I have no doubt that it would be less profitable without atomic power and that a significant revenue decline would deteriorate the grid. If anything, TVA is successful because it is successful: its prestige as a well-run, public-spirited, nominally Socialist (but positively free enterprise) entity allows it to split the anti-nuke and anti-capitalist activists and install cheap, reliable atomic generators which feed its prestige even more.