THE CHOICES OF POWER: Utilities Face the Environmental Challenge by Marc Jo & Jeremy S. Bluhm Roberts

THE CHOICES OF POWER: Utilities Face the Environmental Challenge

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An unconvincing attempt--based on six power-company case studies--to build a general model that describes how large organizations adapt to external demands. The choice of utilities as a focal point for this ambitious endeavor generates interest: they are visible and wealthy; some are owned publicly, some privately; they have been a primary target of environmental regulation. And the case studies themselves, though preceded by a too elementary description of regulatory constraints and technological solutions, are of anecdotal interest to both environmentalists and utilities people. (They concern: the TVA, Pacific Gas and Electric, Ontario Hydro, The Southern Company, the L.A. Department of Water and Power, and Boston Edison.) The problem arises when the well-grounded authors--Roberts is Professor of Political Economy and Health Policy at Harvard, Bluhm is an official of the Boston Employment and Economic Policy Administration--try to build their model: the discussion never rises above the banal. Roberts and Bluhm argue--one wonders why they need to--that an organization will do more than the regulated minimum if it has ""strong,"" ""broadly informed"" leaders, ""in favor of compromise with the outside world,"" who recognize that it may be cheaper to get the jump on regulation. (Lawyers, allegedly, make ""better"" leaders than engineers.) The response to social demands is likely to be ""positive"" if the strong leader is also innovative and rewards innovation at the middle level. This is all very well, but is it a surprise that ""regulators find their job easier"" if their regulations are ""clearly justified and cost-effective?"" Or that ""achieving and maintaining control over a large complex organization is not easy?"" The buildup could be forgiven if there were a punchline; there isn't. After the initial promise of a powerful model, the reader who has worked through six case studies deserves more than platitudes.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press