* Best-selling author Greg Palast on energy and utilities deregualtion
* How to avoid another "California"
Essential services are being privatized the world over. Whether it's water, gas, electricity or the phone network, everywhere from Sao Paulo in Brazil to San Francisco is following the US economic model and handing public services over to private companies whose principal interest is raising prices. Yet it's one of the world's best kept secrets that Americans pay astonishingly little for high quality public services. Unique in the world, every aspect of US regulation is wide open to the public. How is this done and why has this process not taken root elsewhere? How is regulation threatened even in the US? And what power does the American public have to ensure that services remain under regulatory oversight? This book, based on work for the United Nations and written by experts with unrivalled practical experience in utility regulation, is the first step-by-step guide to the way that public services are regulated in the United States. It explains how decisions are made by public debate in a public forum. Profits and investments of private companies are capped, and companies are forced to reduce prices for the poor, fund environmental investments and open themselves to financial inspection. In a world where privatization has so often led to economic disaster - in Peru, telephone charges increased by 3000%; in Rio de Janeiro, 40% of electricity workers lost their jobs; in Britain water prices rose by 58% - this book makes essential reading. Palast, Oppenheim and MacGregor examine what's right with the traditional American system, why regulation elsewhere has failed, and - most importantly -what we have to do to ensure Americans suffer no more California-like crises.
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About the Author
Greg Palast is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation, Salon.com, and numerous other US, British, and international newspapers, magazines, and online publications. He writes the "Inside Corporate America" column for The Observer and is joining BBC-TV's premier news broadcast, Newsnight, as special investigations reporter. He is the winner of the prestigious Financial Times David Thomas Prize, in 1997 and the Industrial Society Investigative Story of the Year, in 1998. He has also been nominated by the UK Press Association as Business Writer of the Year in 1999. In 2000, Salon.com selected his report on the US elections as politics story of the year. He has been the subject of several documentaries, an NPR profile, and an upcoming "60 Minutes" feature. Jerrold Oppenheim has represented Attorneys General, consumers, low-income consumers, labor unions, environmentalists, and industry before utility regulatory commissions and other forums for more than 30 years. His precedent-setting cases include denial of utility plant siting and investment, setting service quality requirements, and abolition of discriminatory pricing, credit and marketing practices. He has lectured and published internationally, including monographs for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) and the National Council on Competition and the Electric Industry. Theo MacGregor was, until 1998, director of the Electric Power Division of the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy, the state's utility regulator. She helped develop the rules and regulations by which electricity utilities operate in the market. She now runs MacGregor Energy Consultancy and provides expert analysis to state governments and other organisations about the electric industry.