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 »
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