involved in planning and may not learn that a plan exists or find the time to study it (see Chapter 6). Rather than developing detailed plans, therefore, it often makes sense to design institutional systems that can respond effectively to a variety of conceivable emergency situations. One suggestion for system design is to make emergency preparedness a continuing process, so that many people are involved in planning, get practice communicating with those they would need to interact with in an emergency, and gain a sense of competence in dealing with emergencies. All these outcomes should be useful for a wide range of emergency situations.
Local Energy Action. Local energy action is both a social and political process in individual communities and a national phenomenon. Local action does not arise only from within communities; it is also influenced by ideas that come from outside by a process of social diffusion. In that sense, local actions are influenced by a national communication system consisting of individuals, organizations, publications, and so forth. If it is national policy to encourage local initiatives in solving energy problems, there are many ways to do it. In addition to the more traditional strategies of offering funds and mandating actions, the federal government could support the communication system by holding conferences or assisting particular groups that transmit energy ideas among communities. Such communication may have been a major effect of past federal activities in conservation and solar energy, but it has never been a central concern of policy.
While we offer several system-oriented policy suggestions, we are not confident that each will be the best approach possible. What is important at present is that some new and promising policy ideas can come from thinking about energy problems as the problems of social systems. In a world in which the limits of control by the central government are becoming increasingly apparent, the suggestions that arise from such a perspective may be especially attractive.
At several points in the discussion of energy emergencies (Chapter 6), we argue that it is important to make the energy system more adaptable so that sudden changes in energy supplies will be less likely to create crises. The goal of adaptability has implications not only for emergency preparedness, but also for energy policy under ordinary conditions.
Adaptability as Part of Emergency Preparedness. A high priority in policy for energy emergencies is maintaining lines of communication so that decision makers have quick access to whatever information they might