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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Portland, OR (September 2, 2003)–Reed College associate professor of sociology Marc Schneiberg has been awarded $85,000 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his study, "Private, Public, or Cooperative? Organizational Form and Economic Diversity in the U.S. Electrical Utility Industry, 1900—1950." Four Reed undergraduate sociology students will work with Schneiberg on the project during the next two years.

Historically, Americans have depended mainly on private, "investor owned utility corporations" for generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity. However, these corporations failed to act in the best interest of both consumers and the public, leading consumer groups and reformers to organize local, publicly owned municipal utilities and cooperatives.

Schneiberg will analyze when and how American consumers and business groups can pursue alternatives to private, for-profit provision by large electrical utility corporations. The study will provide information on policy options currently being debated in the industry, notably the use of public ownership and cooperatives to solve regulatory failures in electrical utility markets.

"We clearly face a variety of problems in this critical infrastructure industry, problems that cannot be resolved by private means alone or by blind faith in the market," said Schneiberg. "But the good news is that there are a wide variety of solutions for us to draw on, currently and historically–including public and cooperative utilities, independent local power generation, and more effective regional coordination of existing resources. In fact, there is ample precedent in this industry for using a mix of imagination, public action, private incentives, and local organization to build and rebuild entire power systems."

Schneiberg, on leave from Reed this fall as a visiting scholar at Northwestern University, joined the Reed faculty in 2000. His teaching and research interests include organizations, economic sociology, and institutional analysis. He continues his work on associations, regulation, public enterprise, and cooperatives in insurance and electricity markets, having recently published article manuscripts in the American Journal of Sociology, Sociological Perspectives, and Research in the Sociology of Organizations. Schneiberg received his Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his B.A. from Haverford College.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent, U.S. government agency that promotes science and engineering through programs that invest over $3.3 billion per year in almost 20,000 research and education projects in science, social science, and engineering. The scholarship of Reed College faculty members and students routinely is recognized through the awarding of NSF grants and fellowships. Most recently among the faculty, associate professor of economics Kimberly Clausing received $115,280 to fund her research on international taxation and the international trade of multinational firms.

Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915).

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