energy to concerns of organizations that already have some local following, and by building coalitions.3

When local groups propose new energy activities, at least five general philosophical outlooks have been presented in support. These “philosophies,” which imply social objectives as well as energy goals, are important because they help define energy activity in terms of values legitimately pursued by local groups, and this gives such groups a reason to become involved. A “conservation” philosophy implies a definition of energy as a resource (see Chapter 2). Its proponents emphasize careful use of scarce resources and advocate moderating the demand for energy. A “community control” philosophy emphasizes decision-making power and how it is distributed. Proponents seek to democratize decision processes in general and decisions about the production and distribution of energy in particular. An “equity” philosophy focuses on energy as a social necessity (see Chapter 2) and stresses the redistribution of energy services to meet minimum needs. A “community development” philosophy is related in part to the previous two: some proponents emphasize revitalization of neighborhoods, using energy action as a way to meet social needs for employment, housing, and so forth; others put their major emphasis on the general benefits to the community of increased economic activity. Finally, an “appropriate technology” philosophy is most explicitly related to the antinuclear and limits-to-growth movements and what have been described as “soft energy path” models (Lovins, 1977). Its proponents support local approaches on the belief that they will lead to energy technologies of a smaller scale, which will be freer of the environmental and social problems of larger-scale energy technologies.

Philosophical support for local energy action becomes politically significant only when it is embodied in organizations. Using a community development philosophy, the chamber of commerce in Richmond, Indiana organized the people who provided essential support for the city’s initial energy planning activity (Cose, 1984). This group built a broad base of support by emphasizing the idea that energy planning would benefit the entire city. In San Bernardino, California, the Westside Development Corporation began its energy activities by demanding funds from the city government—on equity grounds—to meet the needs of poor people. The funds were used to train people to produce and install solar energy systems in low-income housing units.4

The history of a local energy proposal will depend on the philosophical basis of the proposed activity and the distribution of its likely costs and benefits. The distinction between distributive and redistributive policies is useful in understanding this point (Lowi, 1964, 1972). Distributive policies have no clear losers, but some clear gainers: a benefit is offered, and potential recipients compete or negotiate to enlarge their shares. A good example is the Community Energy Project, initiated by ACTION. This

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement