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Edison to Enron: Energy Markets and Political Strategies 1st Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470917367
ISBN-10: 0470917369
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Editorial Reviews


“Summing Up: Highly recommended.  General readers; all levels of undergraduate students.”  (Choice, 1 March 2012)

From the Inside Flap

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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Scrivener; 1 edition (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470917369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470917367
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,440,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edward Durney VINE VOICE on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book surprised me. From the title, I expected it to be a diatribe against the evils of Enron. It is not.

Rather, the book traces the major figures in the energy industry starting with Thomas Edison (starting in 1878) and ending with the pre-Enron Kenneth Lay (ending in 1984). The book is, therefore, a history. As the middle volume of a trilogy, it leaves (most of) the discussion of economic policy to the first volume ("Capitalism at Work") and of the evils of Enron to the last volume ("Enron and Ken Lay: An American Tragedy").

As history, the book reads well. The author, Robert Bradley, can tell a story. He gives interesting facts about the people he talks about, and seems to get the context right. For example, he spends a lot of time on Samuel Insull, an interesting character who built the electricity industry as an industry. Other authors mention that Insull died in a Paris subway station with only pennies in his pocket, implying that he died a friendless pauper. Here we learn, though, that no papers or identification were found on Insull's body. So he was no pauper, but had only pennies in his pocket because his wallet had been stolen. Although his riches had all evaporated, Insull still had an annual pension of $21,000, which was plenty to live on at the time.

I've read a lot about energy, and a lot about many (though not all) of the people the book covers. Still I found lots to interest me. The book is not straight history. Policy gets discussed too. But agree with the author or not, the policy adds to the book, rather than dilute the history.

The main fault I found was that the book was a little raw and rambling. Sometimes there was too much detail. Sometimes the strokes of the author's brush were too broad.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Edison to Enron provides a look at the history of the energy industry in the United States and Canada broken up into three parts. This was originally written as three smaller books and as such there is not really any continuity between the three sections to tie them together. The first section on Edison and Samuel Insull was the most interesting and detailed of the books. It covered the race for AC and DC and the plan to electrify the United States. It showcased Insull's plan of electrifying rural America and proving that it was possible. Government regulation and technical components of early electric are also covered in exacting detail.

Book 2 looks at the natural gas industry and early days of the oil industry also going very technical and looking at the idea of political capitalism. I found this part to be the driest and although full of good information just not my area of interest. Book 3 focused on Enron and Ken Lay. The author having been a confidant of Ken Lay had much to say about the management style and how Ken Lay built the company. The fall of the company was not really covered well and there are better books out there for those looking for that side of the story.

Overall if you are looking for a book on energy markets this is not a bad place to start but no you will need to go through a lot of technical reading. For those interested in how Enron got its start you can get a great deal of information here. Due to the disorganization of the three books I am going with three starts since the information is so good.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Robert Bradley Jr. has written a very useful account of two of the great energy industry leadership collapses of the last century: Samuel Insull of Commonwealth Edison of Chicago, and Ken Lay of Enron.

The comparison is inspired. Bradley sums up Insull's contribution: "Thomas Edison invented the common use of electricity, but Samuel Insull, more than anyone else, distributed it to the masses....Insull ingeniously developed the business model to affordably bring electricity into homes, stores, offices, and industry. Thomas Edison was the father of electricity; his protoge Insull was the father of the modern electricity industry."

Insull's career ended in disgrace if not tragedy. Ironically, Insull, who had mastered relations with government agencies to create his industry, was to be targeted for prosecution in the wake of his holding companies' collapse in the Great Depression. Insull became one of the prime scapegoats of the era.

Ken Lay is recounted by the author as "Mr. Natural Gas" in the latter part of the 20th century. Bradley, who worked for Lay, appropriately acknowledges that Lay's historical place pales beside that of Insull. Unlike Insull, Lay was not an empire builder. Unlike Insull, Lay had foundational expertise not in energy per se, but in the interaction of government and industry through the regulatory process. He was a formally trained economist acting as an unacknowledged financier. Unlike Insull, Lay was not a learned individual; he strove to use knowledge and information in an opportunistic manner. Bradley convincingly argues that this was a defect with consequences, notably in Lay's self-regarding and self-destructive defense against his ultimate prosecution.
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