This time last year, energy executives pulled out their calculators and began tallying up their exposure to Enron's sudden plunge into bankruptcy. In short order, Enron's trading partners delivered specific predictions. El Paso ( EP) gauged its damage at $50 million. Dynegy ( DYN), which had just scrapped plans for an Enron buyout, set its exposure at $75 million. Williams ( WMB) and Duke ( DUK) conceded that they could lose as much as $100 million each. Given the lavish multibillion-dollar valuations the companies carried in a marketplace still agog with visions of vast trading profits, the price tag didn't seem too steep. Indeed, many of Enron's rivals expected to recoup their losses and then some by gobbling up market share in a business that sprouted out of the 1990s belief that private enterprise could solve virtually any problem. With newly created energy trading operations simultaneously relieving pressure on the nation's decaying electricity grid and churning out massive profits, analysts saw in Enron's demise a win-win situation for investors. "We feel that all energy merchants -- including Dynegy, Williams, Duke and El Paso -- will ultimately benefit from Enron's collapse," Prudential analyst Carol Coale said just ahead of Enron's bankruptcy. But a year later, it's apparent that Enron was merely the first casualty in the now deeply distressed energy-trading business. Of the four competitors mentioned by Coale, only Duke still operates a major trading business, and it's a money-losing venture. The others, now saddled with mounds of junk-rated debt and cash flows that have slowed to a trickle, are struggling for the means to fund more routine -- and affordable -- operations like energy production and transportation. All the energy-trading companies have seen their stocks decline sharply. Meanwhile, huge trading divisions lay near ruin, sullied by questionable business and accounting practices that have triggered myriad governmental investigations. Dynegy, for one, has already paid a $3 million fine to end a high-profile probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission. All the same, Duke remains stubbornly committed to the fallen trading business. "We're very proud of our trading and marketing operation," CFO Robert Brace told investors, even after the division's dismal third quarter. "We're not looking at pulling back." Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless has since reinforced that commitment. "We have one division that's not doing that well," Wheeless said of the trading unit. "But with any kind of modest upturn, it will return to its very healthy ways." Still, some merchant energy critics insist that the excesses underlying the industry that Enron built will continue to plague investors for years to come.