Monday, August 06, 2007

Open source energy policy development

Over 10 years ago, a programmer named Eric S. Raymond presented an essay called "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" which explained why he thought the software development model that produced Linux was so successful. (Also around that time anyone reading a web page was also probably a programmer so I wouldn't need this background. How times have changed.)

Basically the action of many loosely connected individuals (the bazaar) looking at and working on source code made bugs more likely to be found and created good, reliable software in a fraction of the time of the traditional model. This was only possible if the source code was available for anyone to look at and the whole process was open. This was, and still is, a dangerous notion to companies like Microsoft that view source code as valuable intellectual property for which access is to be strictly controlled and monitored.

Well now the same open source philosophy has been applied to the arcane world of energy policy making. The result is Energize America, "a comprehensive and compelling 20-point plan developed by informed citizen activists to wean the U.S. from its fossil fuel addiction and provide the U.S. with Energy Security by 2020, and Energy Freedom by 2040." It also will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020.

I learned about this plan at a panel at YearlyKos. Some of their ideas already have the support of members of Congress. A related panel, which I missed, talked about "Using the Blogosphere to develop Policy". There's obviously a lot in common with the ideals behind the open source movement: take creation of a valuable public good (An operating system, a sustainable energy policy) and take it out of the hands of the few (for-profit software companies, lobbyists) and give it to the many (volunteer programmers,concerned citizens). Congrats to the Energize America team (whose work has really just begun).

No comments: