Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Embargo Period

10-17-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Engineering and Public Policy

Advisor(s)

Gabrielle Wong-Parodi

Second Advisor

Mitchell J. Small

Abstract

Decision-making surrounding pathways of future energy resource management are complexity and requires balancing tradeoffs of multiple environmental, social, economic, and technical outcomes. Technical decision aid can provide a framework for informed decision making, allowing individuals to better understand the tradeoff between resources, technology, energy services, and prices. While technical decision aid have made significant advances in evaluating these quantitative aspects of energy planning and performance, they have not been designed to incorporate human factors, such as preferences and behavior that are informed by cultural values. Incorporating cultural values into decision tools can provide not only an improved decision framework for the Navajo Nation, but also generate new insights on how these perspective can improve decision making on energy resources. Ensuring these aids are a cultural fit for each context has the potential to increase trust and promote understanding of the tradeoffs involved in energy resource management. In this dissertation I present the development of a technical tool that explicitly addresses cultural and spiritual values and experimentally assesses their influence on the preferences and decision making of Navajo citizens. Chapter 2 describes the results of a public elicitation effort to gather information about stakeholder views and concerns related to energy development in the Navajo Nation in order to develop a larger sample survey and a decision-support tool that links techno-economic energy models with sociocultural attributes. Chapter 3 details the methods of developing the energy decision aid and its underlying assumptions for alternative energy projects and their impacts. This tool also provides an alternative to economic valuation of cultural impacts based upon an ordinal index tied to environmental impacts. Chapter 4 details the the influence of various cultural, environmental, and economic outcome information provided through the developed decision aid on beliefs and preferences related to the type and scale of energy development, trust of decision makers, and larger concern for environmental protection. Finally, chapter 5 presents concluding thoughts future research and on how technical-social decision tools can provide a means ensuring effective decision making on the Navajo Nation and other American Indian communities.

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