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Electricity and Energy Policy in Britain, France and the United States since 1945

Martin Chick, Reader in Economic and Social History, University of Edinburgh, UK
Martin Chick’s book is a major economic and historical study of the development of electricity and energy policy in Britain, France and the United States since 1945. Using newly available archival material the author draws important comparisons between these countries and includes all of the fuel and power industries.
Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2008
Extent: 224 pp
Hardback Price: $127.00 Web: $114.30
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN: 978 1 84542 111 3
Availability: In Stock
Paperback Price: $51.00 Web: $40.80
Publication Date: 2009
ISBN: 978 1 84844 591 8
Availability: In Stock

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  • Economics and Finance
  • Economic History
  • Energy Economics
  • Environmental Economics
  • Industrial Organisation
  • Environment
  • Environmental Economics
Martin Chick’s book is a major economic and historical study of the development of electricity and energy policy in Britain, France and the United States since 1945. Using newly available archival material the author draws important comparisons between these countries and includes all of the fuel and power industries.

Among the issues covered within this book are: nationalisation and privatisation; regulation, deregulation and liberalisation; marginal cost pricing; investment appraisal; the OPEC oil price hikes of the 1970s; the European Coal and Steel Community; domestic and international threats to national energy security; the electricity blackouts in California; the efforts of the European Commission to promote competition in national and transnational electricity markets; and the influence of history on current discussions of energy policy. The book blends economic theory with historical evidence and is as interested in the political factors affecting the implementation of theory as in the theory itself.

It will be of interest to all students and scholars of environmental studies, politics, economics, business and industrial history, as well as to anyone interested in placing the current debates on electricity and energy policy in their historical perspective
‘. . . it’s a valuable and laudable work. . . I found it interesting and helpful to have an account of the parallel developments in the other two countries. . . An analysis of important aspects of British and French energy policy development based on primary sources is a worthwhile contribution. A broad comparative synthesis of energy policy in the three countries is also a worthwhile contribution.’
– John Neufeld, EH.NET

‘The main objective of this very interesting book is to analyse—from economic history and political economy perspectives—the similarities and differences in the forms that the electricity sector has been organized and the ways that energy policy has developed in Britain, France, and the US. The book’s organization and the clarity of the writing make for a highly rewarding read. . . Chick has dedicated many years to studying the electricity sector, and this book demonstrates his mastery of this complex industry. . . Chick’s book will be of decided interest to energy specialists, but it will also appeal to a broader readership including economic historians, political economists, and other social scientists who wish to understand the crucial role that energy has played in international politics, economic growth, and human welfare during the period since the Second World War.’
– Judith Clifton, The Economic History Review

‘Chick’s superb study of this crucial sector goes right to the heart of a number of problems associated with markets and government, casting light on each. It also sheds light in unexpected areas, and in particular on the history of economic thought. Above all, this volume succeeds admirably in fusing the best techniques of business and economic history to show why history matters for present-day policy.’
– Roger Middleton, Business History

‘This history of the post-WWII electricity supply industry in France, Great Britain and the US is well researched and well written. . . The author draws on newly available archival material to develop a sophisticated, deeply informed portrayal of the evolutionary process in each nation. . . This well-crafted industrial history should be of interest to practitioners and policy makers as well as students and scholars. Highly recommended.’
– R.C. Singleton, Choice

‘Nationalisation, regulation, privatisation: beyond polemics, history lessons by Martin Chick.’
– Alain Beltran, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, France

‘International economic history is not just concerned with flows of capital and goods. It involves comparisons of the economic policy and organisation of specific economic sectors. In this excellent book, Martin Chick examines energy policy issues, policy formation, policy makers and their advisers, in USA, France and Britain, drawing on original archive sources. He brings out the importance of strategic issues, including security, in the switch from coal to oil and natural gas, the European debate on coal and steel, pricing in electricity supply and finally privatisation and liberalisation of markets. It is a fine exercise in political economy and will appeal to scholars and students of politics as well as of history, economics and business studies.’
– Robert Millward, University of Manchester, UK

‘Analyzing the work of economic theorists and policy practitioners from the 1840s to the present, this sophisticated historical account helps scholars understand better the profound obstacles to making successful energy policy today. In particular, the cross-national study highlights the primacy of social, political, and historical forces over “rational” economic theory, demonstrating that energy policy making has never been (and will likely never become) a pure science based on cherished academic principles such as marginal-cost pricing.’
– Richard Hirsh, Consortium on Energy Restructuring, Virginia Tech, US

‘Martin Chick’s overview of the formation and implementation of energy policy in three countries since 1945 is a remarkable achievement. Writing clearly, confidently and concisely, Chick examines competing energy sources, political organisation, pricing and investment, providing a comparative political economy of the post-war electrical industry. Through exploration of critical debates within academia, business and politics about the future structure of the industry during the “long seventies” (1968–84), he demonstrates how past decisions conditioned policy choices in each of the three countries, especially with regard to more recent trends towards privatisation and deregulation. The book is an important contribution to economic history, but it also has clear contemporary relevance. His message about the ways in which past policy and practice affect the present applies equally to current-day debates about the future direction of energy policy. Chick’s careful analysis of the industry’s development to date provides vital background information and a framework for analysis for policymakers and the informed public.’
– Ray Stokes, University of Glasgow, UK
Contents: 1. Introduction 2. Shifting from Coal to Oil: What Price Security? 3. The European Coal and Steel Community 4. Moving the Margin to the Centre: Pricing Electricity 5. Electricity Investment: Rewarding the Past, Discounting the Future 6. Deregulation, Privatisation and Liberalisation 7. Conclusion Bibliography Index