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1 JimDensmore commented Permalink

Just today a friend commented about some "terrible" oil spill in some community in Arkansas. (Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that town in AR is having a terrible time today, and I feel for them.) Their immediate reaction: the Keystone pipeline would be so much worse! Yet the real answer is: maybe. Our sensationalist media has fostered a societal attitude of certainty about many things which are not certain at all. In reality, there are risks/uncertainties, costs and benefits, all to weigh against each other as we make what ought to be carefully reasoned decisions about how to proceed. Those who do so in their business are likely to do better because their decisions will be better informed and more subject to real accountability.

Perhaps the risks are too great to continue a project at hand. If the risks are too large, but the benefits, such as lower fuel costs in this example, also appear great, then perhaps the right approach is to begin beating down those risks so that they are not so severe. Then look up; see if the risks have been reduced enough to continue the project. Our society isn't tuned today to working that way. Few do truly embrace uncertainty.
I only picked Keystone because it came up in a conversation today, and I don't have a knowledgeable idea what the right answer is for that particular project. However, it may be a good example showing that making decisions using mostly political forces as justification, without any measurable accounting for uncertainties or measurable benefits and costs, is unlikely to lead to an optimal solution.

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