Abstract: Where Is Enron? Changing Perceptions of Geographic Relationships in the Deregulation of California's Energy Market

Gavin Benke


I examine the role geography plays when a large company with a distant headquarters conducts business in a particular location. Geographers see a power imbalance between the mobile capital of large corporations and fixed locations that must attract this capital, while companies sometimes downplay geographic distance. However, this strategy can become a liability if tensions between the company and a location emerge. As a case study, I look at changing geographic perceptions as Enron conducted business in California in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Enron's initial strategy was to efface its complex geographic relationship to California. Although the company's strategy was initially more or less successful, as the California energy crisis unfolded, Enron's geographic identity quickly became a lightning rod for public and journalistic expressions of frustration and anger. I track this shift in geographic perception through Enron press releases and California newspaper stories, editorials, and letters to the editor.

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