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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“The Making of” California’s Energy Crisis


This article examines the origins of the California Energy Crisis through the lens of economic and political theory. The key turning points leading up to deregulation of the State’s energy markets are reviewed. The origins of the crisis are then framed in free market ideology and the garbage can model of political decision-making. Specifically, it is argued that California’s case exemplifies a process of deregulatory capture. A few interest groups used a window of political opportunity to shape the rules governing the process and create new economic opportunities, while shielding themselves from economic risk. These insights regarding the origins of the crisis highlight the need to enrich planning discourse with positive theories of market and polity interaction, and to adopt a more entrepreneurial role for planners during periods of dramatic reform of public infrastructure and services.

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