Energy, the master resource, is the world's largest industry and the bedrock of modern life. Without carbon-based energy, in particular, production and consumption as we know it would not exist. For most people, oil, gas, and coal have made life possible, not only pleasant.
During the last 150 years, the United States has been at the forefront of energy development. Robert L. Bradley Jr.'s Edison to Enron chronicles important swaths of this history by focusing on the great entrepreneurs of electricity and natural gas: their lives and labors, their faults and failures, their mortal enemies, and their sometimes more deadly friends.
Samuel Insull transformed the inventions of Thomas Edison into the modern electricity industry—only to have an Enron/Ken Lay-like fall late in his career. John Henry Kirby helped Texas enter the big leagues with timber, oil, and gas between his two bankruptcies. And Clint Murchison, Ray Fish, Robert Herring, and Jack Bowen, among others chronicled in the book, went through ups and downs in their quest to displace manufactured (coal) gas with cheaper, cleaner natural gas across the United States and in Canada.
Bradley's book covers market entrepreneurship, especially resourceship in regard to energy minerals. Yet there are also significant instances in which the energy creators engaged in political entrepreneurship, or rent-seeking, by extracting special government favor for pecuniary advantage. The waste and perils of the latter provide a stark contrast to the benefits and prudence of free-market enterprise.
Edison to Enron also tracks the career of Kenneth L. Lay, from a minor government bureaucrat to the heir apparent at Transco Energy Company to the wunderkind CEO of Houston Natural Gas Corporation (HNG). A shooting star of the energy business, Lay would transform HNG into mighty Enron, before meeting his unhappy fate less than two decades later—a story told in this book's sequel.
As a rare broad-based history of the American energy industry, Edison to Enron fills a critical gap in historiography and takes its place as a classic account of the energy nation par excellence during its most dynamic century.
Edison to Enron is the second installment of Bradley's trilogy on political capitalism, inspired by the rise and fall of Enron. Book 1, Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy, provides a worldview of market-based versus political business, as well as an interpretation of energy sustainability. Book 3, Enron and Ken Lay: An American Tragedy, chronologically describes the rise and fall of Enron and the post-Enron world.