That was obvious; the authors do favor “soft-path” options alternatives to gigantic, expensive, technically-fragile power systems. A large part of Lines is aimed at showing how the co-op system, which began as a decentralized, lowtechnology, close-to-nature system is changing into something else something resembling in attitude, approach, and tone the concentrated private utility system. Most of the complaints against the co-op system involve generating, transmission, and mining projects, pursued by the big G&T’s. Lines provides numerous cases of dispute and conflict with consumers, environmentalists and landowners in which a chief complaint is that the distribution-oriented co-ops no longer provide leadership within NRECA. The G&T’s appear to have captured the national co-op system, and now set policy. There’s truth in these charges. NRECA is a partner with private utilities in organizations such as the Edison Electric Institute and its research arm ERPI and the Breeder Reactor Corporation. It has joined other organizations that specialize in pro-nuclear propaganda efforts: American Nuclear Energy Council, American For Energy Independence, the Food and Energy Council, and the National Conference on Energy Advocacy. Additionally, the voice of NRECA, Rural Electric Newsletter, repeats the kinds of intemperate attacks on its critics that are the mark of privately-owned utilities. This is a serious mistake. There are well-meaning, sincere people who question the benefits and costs of nuclear, water, and mining ventures, the breeder reactor, and long distance, high voltage transmission lines. Moreover, NRECA’s attack on such opponents plays right into the hands of the co-op system’s natural enemies, the private utilities. The co-op system seems to have developed a split personality; part of the system continues to reflect the traditional local distribution attitudes, part reflects the newer, regional G&T attitudes. Lines Across the Land is a book which attempts to describe the new attitudes and influences. In Texas, G&T co-ops have never exercised much influence. The distribution co-ops, with some exceptions, continue in the traditional pattern: minimum costs and rates, service to their rural community, and concern for their customer needs. Lines recounts one of the Texas exceptions: the bad relations between Pedernales Electric, the state’s largest, and many of its customers a conflict that continues today. Both the Pedernales Electric and its predominantly urban customers appear to have lost the old attitudes of shared purpose that could keep and maintain a reserve of good feelings between them. In the future, the G&T influence will increase. Texas’ two G&T co-ops, Brazos and South Texas, start up a big lignite-fired plant this year. Other Texas co-ops have bought into Texas Utilities’ Comanche Peak and Gulf States’ River Bend nuclear plants. Those actions put private utility-trained technicians, and their corporate values, into positions of authority in Texas’ co-op system. Primary concerns will become the generation and sale of full capacity from their plants, the solvency of projects, and the repayment of bonds. Other considerations conservation, the environment, customer relations, service will get the level of attention the private utilities give: the minimum. If Texas’ co-op system adopts the priorities of the private utilities the result will be the type of conflict recounted in Lines: disputes over environment, .land use, and other impediments to the Coops’ attempts to generate and deliver a maximum amont of power. In the face of growing G&T pressure, distribution co-ops may not be able to maintain their strong, pro-consumer tradition. Conflicts similar to those described in Lines already have occurred in Texas. The Texas Municipal Public Power Agency created bad feeling and resistance when it condemned land to erect its lignite mine and generating plant in Grimes County. TMPA is a non-profit organization composed of the cities of Bryan, Denton, Garland, and Greenville. Such public bodies might have acted differently from private utilities. They did not. The technical managers of the project showed little consideration for the feelings or interests of local landowners, conservationists, or environmentalists. In fact TMPA acted without much regard for any opposition. Co-ops across Texas will face similar challenges. Can they become big-time power producers without acting like big utilities? Can they integrate a large G&T system into their own and not lose their non-member public support? If not, can they continue to fend off the aggressions of the private utilities? Lines suggests that the electric co-ops could lose their unique character, begin to act like private, profit-seeking utilities, lose their political support, and then succumb to the predatory private utilities. They would disappear as an alternative to the private utility system. III till tall10:-1 711ere is XCti and Chicken Alaskan Kbig Crab Mahi Australian Lobster Teriyaki New York Strips Prime Rib Ratatouille Salad Buffet wharf’ 20 JULY 4, 1980
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