Cook: Alexander blacklists the expert

Cook: Alexander blacklists the expert

January 4th, 2013 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

On Tuesday, our U.S. senators - Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker - made a damning decision that could cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

They blacklisted the most important member of the TVA board.

Her name is Dr. Marilyn Brown.

She has a vision of energy use in the South that is hopeful, realistic and economically responsible. An energy policy that is sustainable and affordable in the face of the new normal that is our climate-change-weather of more storms, more floods, more catastrophe.

But Tuesday night, Alexander (supported by Corker) sent a list of four names -- not five -- to be approved by the U.S. Senate for the TVA board.

They nominated an accountant, a businessman, the chairman of a financial services company, an attorney. Each quite good at what they do.

But the one woman with a global level of expertise about energy efficiency and climate change?

Nope. They left Marilyn Brown -- who's already been serving on the board -- off the list.

"We respect her professional credentials, but we encourage the president to send another nominee with credentials better suited to the TVA Board," the senators said in a released statement.

Her credentials? Better suited?

She won the Nobel Peace Prize for her 2007 work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

She teaches courses on energy policy at Georgia Tech; at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Brown oversaw multimillion-dollar research projects.

She has written hundreds of publications, including the 2010 paper "Energy Efficiency in the South," which charts a promising path for the South: $40 billion in energy savings and nearly 400,000 jobs created.

By 2020. Through energy efficiency. With an initial investment expected to quadruple in savings earned.

"I think Marilyn is probably one of the most qualified board members that has ever been appointed," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "Nobody else on the board has her technical understanding of the issues."

But she doesn't have -- the credentials?

"Their response was totally unacceptable," said Smith.

So why would Alexander not submit her name?

Is it because Brown champions the very things Alexander disdains (thoughtful, clean energy policies)?

She has supported nuclear, but not as the gospel Alexander proclaims it is. Instead, Brown believes in the long-term reach of energy efficiency as an answer to our energy and climate crisis.

Is it because Brown, whose main support comes from the Obama administration, is not a Republican?

Is it because Brown, an intellectual and courageous woman, doesn't always bow to the doctrine of Alexander or fellow Republican and board chairman Bill Sansom, whose background is military-, business- and transportation-based?

Is it because Brown, with two years of board experience, is now becoming a too-strong member of the board, suggesting a vision Alexander and Sansom aren't comfortable with?

"This is one of those things the senators thought they could do late at night and she would just go away," said Smith. "They need to be held accountable for it."

In the years to come, we're approaching an environmental cliff more troubling than the fiscal one.

It will cost us money. As tornadoes, floods and storms increase, so will the associated costs in damage control and cleanup.

It will cost us lives. As the climate continues to change, it will increase the amount of life-threatening storms, droughts, food price-spikes and illnesses.

But our politicians are playing politics with the TVA board?

Whose credentials should we really be questioning?

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.