Rural Electrification Administration

Feb 25, 2011

dictionary-150What is the Rural Electrification Administration?

The REA was created by the Roosevelt Administration in 1935 to bring electricity to rural areas. Farmers were urged to create electricity cooperative companies. It then channeled funding through these coops through low-interest loans to finance the construction of generation and distribution facilities and power lines to bring electricity to farms.

What's the significance?

While 90% of urban dwellers had electricity by the 1930s, only 10% of rural dwellers did and roughly 9 out of 10 farms had none. Private companies hadn't been interested in building costly electricity lines into the countryside and assumed the farmers would be too poor to buy the electricity once it was there. But by 1939, the REA had helped establish 417 coops, which served 288,000 households. By 1939, 25% of rural households had electricity. By the time FDR died in 1945, an estimated 9 out of 10 farms were electrified.

The access to electricity completely changed rural life, bringing appliances into the house and onto the field, improving health and sanitation with running water and refrigerators, and connecting farms to the outside world via the radio.

Who's talking about it?

David Woolner compares President Obama's plan to bring high-speed internet to the entire country to FDR's efforts to electrify rural life...He also sees it as a model for building a "smart grid"...Lynn Parramore notes the way electricity changed women's lives in a panel at Hyde Park...Wallace Turbeville warns that our energy revolution is more complex than the one FDR faced in the 1930s.

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