Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Systems Approach to Public Decisions

One thing I have felt for many years is that we should look at the entire system in dealing with energy and other problems. How can a nation particularly United States convert from a petroleum based personal automobile transportation to mass transit and electric vehicles. We always hear that it would cost XYZ billion dollars to convert our infrastructure from gasoline stations to rechargable batteries. For example, if all automobiles had interchangeable batteries, one could have the whole battery assembly swapped out if one runs out of juice on a long trip. This is part of a Better Place infrastructure, which is a challenge to collaborative process.

To build anything takes resources and if we ramp up too fast, we would hit capacity limitations. I. E. would we run out of steel making capacity? This requires a system capacity and systems approach and a linear programming approach, looking at the different resources needed. Do we use steel capacity to build new rails so that the different components of a new energy infrastructure can be shipped at a greater efficiency or is it better to use that capacity to construct the windmills, etc. first.

We have to figure out what is feasible before we can vote on it, and a dollar approach isn't the first one. The price of lithium or antimony only tells you what is available for a marginal or small change, not a big one. (Admittedly, this concept is relevant to decision making about moving a nation in a grand sense, whether for war or military accomplishments, whether participatory democracy, conventional democracy or a dictatorship.) The cost of a teacher doesn't tell you whether there are enough teachers to halve class size.

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