Pam's Points: Alexander's blowing in the wind, and measles aren't just spots

Pam's Points: Alexander's blowing in the wind, and measles aren't just spots

May 16th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Alexander blows off wind energy

Tennessee's U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has long been a foe of wind energy, and he never misses an opportunity to atack it.

On Wednesday, he threw his weight around with the Tennessee Valley Authority over the public utility's plan to study the possibility of wheeling 3,500 megawatts of wind power from Oklahoma and Texas via a new electricity transmission line that would tie to a TVA substation in Memphis.

Alexander, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, also a Tennessee Republican, asked TVA to carefully evaluate the reliability and security of importing wind energy over a 700-mile transmission line proposed to be built from Oklahoma to Tennessee. The lawmakers said they are wary about the developer of the line, Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, being granted utility status to allow the company to force landowners to sell their property along the proposed line in Oklahoma, Arkansas and West Tennessee through eminent domain.

"It's up to the TVA board to decide what kinds of electricity to generate and purchase," said Alexander, "But it is the responsibility of members of Congress to provide oversight to TVA policies, and these questions are part of that oversight."

Come on, Senator. Be honest, here. If this was a nuclear power plant, you wouldn't blink -- and haven't -- about who might be forced to sell or forced to live in the shadow of reactor cooling towers or new transmission lines to get nuclear-plant power on the grid.

TVA could use the wind power, which is considered a renewable energy source, to help replace many of the aging coal-fired units the utility is shutting down to meet stricter air quality standards. TVA also could transmit the wind-generated electricity along its own transmission lines for use by other Southern utilities looking to boost their share of renewable energy.

The 3,500 megawatts of wind power capacity is three times the power production capacity of a nuclear reactor. Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, with two reactors, supplies about 2,320 megawatts of power -- the needs of about 1.3 million homes a day.

On Thursday, Alexander called on Congress to leave expired the wind production tax credit, while continuing tax credits for coal and nuclear production. But that's an editorial for another day.

Measles is no small matter

Many folks born after the mid-1960s can't understand how desperately sick the measles can make you feel.

The flu is a walk in the park by comparison, and complications can be deadly.

So a story in Thursday's Chattanooga Times Free Press by Kate Harrison noting that an adult victim of the highly contagious disease visited Chattanooga last week and likely was contagious then is sobering news. Equally sobering was word that Tennessee health officials are investigating five measles cases that have broken out over the last month -- the highest count the state has seen in nearly 20 years, and some of the victims had been vaccinated, according to Tennessee state epidemiologist Tim Jones.

Measles is the most deadly of all childhood rash and fever illnesses, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s, nearly twice as many children died from measles as from polio. Scientists isolated the measles virus for a vaccine in 1954, and two types of vaccine were approved by the government in 1963, according to the New York Times news archive.

Most American children born since then have been vaccinated, and thanks to the vaccines, measles almost disappeared from the United States. But that's not the case in many foreign countries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates measles caused 164,000 deaths worldwide as recently as 2008. The Tennessee measles cases have been linked to a foreign visit.

So if your cold and sore throat is joined by a rash, call a doctor. Quickly.