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Title: Some Simple Arguments about Cost Externalization and its Relevance to the Price of Fusion Energy

Some Simple Arguments about Cost Externalization and its Relevance to the Price of Fusion Energy The primary goal of fusion energy research is to develop a source of energy that is less harmful to the environment than are the present sources. A concern often expressed by critics of fusion research is that fusion energy will never be economically competitive with fossil fuels, which in 1997 provided 75% of the world's energy. And in fact, studies of projected fusion electricity generation generally project fusion costs to be higher than those of conventional methods. Yet it is widely agreed that the environmental costs of fossil fuel use are high. Because these costs aren't included in the market price, and furthermore because many governments subsidize fossil fuel production, fossil fuels seem less expensive than they really are. Here we review some simple arguments about cost externalization which provide a useful background for discussion of energy prices. The collectively self-destructive behavior that is the root of many environmental problems, including fossil fuel use, was termed ''the tragedy of the commons'' by the biologist G. Hardin. Hardin's metaphor is that of a grazing commons that is open to all. Each herdsman, in deciding whether to add a cow to his herd, compares the benefit of doing so, which accrues to more » him alone, to the cost, which is shared by all the herdsmen using the commons, and therefore adds his cow. In this way individually rational behavior leads to the collective destruction of the shared resource. As Hardin pointed out, pollution is one kind of tragedy of the commons. CO{sub 2} emissions and global warming are in this sense classic tragedies. « less
Authors: ;
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:OSTI ID: 12125
Report Number(s):Cfpaper-4055
TRN: US0102364
DOE Contract Number:AC02-76CH03073
Resource Type:Technical Report
Resource Relation:Other Information: PBD: 27 Sep 1999
Research Org:Princeton Plasma Physics Lab., NJ (US)
Sponsoring Org:USDOE Office of Energy Research (ER) (US)
Country of Publication:United States
Language:English
Subject: 20 FOSSIL-FUELED POWER PLANTS; 70 PLASMA PHYSICS AND FUSION TECHNOLOGY; FOSSIL-FUEL POWER PLANTS; THERMONUCLEAR POWER PLANTS; ECONOMIC ANALYSIS; ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS; FOSSIL FUELS; COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS; CARBON DIOXIDE; CLIMATIC CHANGE