Energy costs mean externalities matter

by Ed Korczynski, Senior Technical Editor, Solid State Technology

What do the words “energy” and “costs” have to do with materials considerations in 2008? The most recent issue of the Materials Research Society (MRS) Bulletin — free to the public — is devoted to exploring all aspects, including costs, of materials science and engineering for energy, including a must-read article about “The Economics of Energy Options.”

“Many of the energy decisions that US residents currently make are conditioned by the subsidies that energy has enjoyed,” writes Lester B. Lave of Carnegie-Mellon U. He concludes that as a result of ” artificially lowered prices” (aka subsidies), “the energy policy of the United States has encouraged energy use beyond what it would have been if the price had reflected full social cost.”

The whole debate over the “true” costs of energy centers on where we draw the line on our system, and this is clearly seen in the debate over “solar subsidies.”

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