MOTHER’s Newsworthies: Billy Lovett, Birch Bayh and Julia Child

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PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Public Service Commissioner Billy Lovett, helped fight against rising utility costs for people in his state.

Brief: Billy Lovett

There are probably some Georgians who’d like to run Billy
Lovett out of town … but to many other
residents of the Peach State, the young Public Service
Commissioner’s honesty and forthright opinions come as a
welcome relief from the murky and condescending rhetoric
folks usually receive from government officials.

Since joining the Commission a little over two years ago,
Lovett has leveled a series of unrelenting attacks on the
utility companies of his state, and on constant
rate hikes. In fact — last spring — he successfully
led the opposition to House Bill 1252, which would have
approved a $120 million increase in the cost of electricity
generated by Georgia Power!

Lovett called that piece of legislation “the greatest hoax
since the Yazoo Land Fraud,” because it would have required
Georgia Power’s customers to foot the bill for a number of
power plants being constructed by the utility company … facilities which, Lovett maintains, are totally
unnecessary (as evidenced by Georgia Power’s plans
to sell the plants to out-of-state utilities).

Not even his own colleagues are safe from Lovett’s attacks.
In November of 1979, he opposed a move to make the PSC
members appointed officials (they are now elected for terms
of six years) … and even urged that some of the
longtime members of the board not be reelected when their
terms expired. Several of those officials, he said, had
fallen under the influence of the utility lobby and had
lost touch with the general public they were
supposed to be serving.

Commissioner Lovett is also an outspoken proponent of
alternative energy sources. Maintaining that “we must
decrease and eventually eliminate our dependence on
nonrenewable resources and on activities destructive to the
environment,” he has published a 30-page proposal entitled
“Meeting Georgia’s Energy Needs in the 1980s.” Lovett’s
energy plan, which he says is “designed for the people, not
the utilities,” recommends the establishment of a State
Energy Efficiency Development (SEED) Authority, which would
provide interest-free loans to residential consumers for
the construction and use of alternative energy
devices.

Brief: Birch Bayh

Before he was defeated in the November 1980 election,
Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana provided a strong voice for
ecology and alternative energy in the Senate. In addition
to backing such environmental measures as the expansion of
the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the protection of
national forest lands in his home state, the former
legislator helped stop the construction of several proposed
dams … and was successful in amending a bill that
authorizes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to impose
criminal penalties on deliberate violators of safety
regulations. Senator Bayh also emerged — during his
three terms on Capitol Hill — as a dedicated supporter
of humane animal treatment.

Perhaps Bayh’s most important activity of the last
two years, however, was serving as the Chairman of the
National Alcohol Fuels Commission. The board’s
assignment — during its 18-month life span — was to
study alcohol fuel potential and offer specific
recommendations to the President and Congress for expanding
the country’s use of alternative sources of energy.

The committee held public hearings in Washington, sponsored
ethanol and methanol research, and urged the government to
play a leading role in advocating the use of such fuels.
Bayh and ten other Congressional members of the Commission
wrote to President Carter last fall, expressing concern
over the slow progress of efforts to convert the U.S. to
gasohol. The letter pointed out that the Federal government
purchased over 340 million gallons of fuel in 1979 to run
its enormous motor fleet, of which only 13 million gallons
(or 4 percent of the total) was gasohol. The Commission urged the
Chief Executive to beef up the government’s purchasing
program for the home-brewed fuel … and thus stimulate a
market for the product.

Senator Bayh, in explaining his reasons for supporting the
ethanol movement, says: “Alcohol fuels provide us with the
opportunity to declare our energy independence. In fact, I
think we ought to be turning our farms into energy
factories.” 

Brief: Julia Child

Julia Child is constantly asked to endorse kitchen and food
products … but the chef de cuisine
extraordinaire
declares that she’s determined to
remain free to speak her own mind. And, although she minces
a lot of fresh vegetables, Ms. Child minces no words when
it comes to pointing out what she sees as dishonest food
magazines ( “one publication has a policy never to
criticize its advertisers, so its restaurant reviews are
meaningless”) … poorly designed products (“the Sunbeam
mixer has been on the market for 40 years, but it won’t
even beat egg whites properly”) … and the National
Heart Association ( “since it’s supported by a cooking oil
company, of course you can’t trust the
organization’s warnings about heart disease and its
relation to cholesterol and heavy oils.”)

The plain-spoken gourmet — who, for many years, starred
in her own television cooking show, The French
Chef —
also objects to the inferior cuts of meat
often sold by commercial butchers. (She recommends rabbits
as particularly useful homestead livestock, because their
meat is “inexpensive, delicious, low in fat, and meatier
than chicken.”)

Furthermore, while she’s quick to criticize items and
institutions that she disapproves of, the American-born
chef will sometimes lend her name to causes that she
considers worthy. For example, Ms. Child — who believes
that “every baby should be a wanted
child” — sponsored a recent fund-raising affair for
Planned Parenthood. –Duane Valentry

In Brief …

  • Environmentalist Jacques-Yves Cousteau has just produced — along with the staff
    of the Cousteau Society –The Cousteau Almanac of
    the Environment,
    which attempts to catalog
    all life on earth (Doubleday).
  • The faculty at Los
    Angeles’s International College — a nontraditional
    “one-to-one” university — includes Buckminster Fuller and the poet Gary Snyder.