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Name: H.
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: WA 
Country: N/A
Date: 7/22/2005


Question:
How much does it cost to produce energy?

For example, how much does it cost to produce oil? or coal? or solar energy?

Is there a site to research more on energy production cost?

Thank you


Replies:
This is a very complex question because it is not simply the cost of "fuel", the cost of "conversion", and the cost of "distribution. "Storage" of both fuel and energy produced, the cost of "regulatory" compliance, the efficiency of the device using the energy produced, various "loses" of energy at different points in the process of energy "generation", the cost of "labor" at various points in the generation cycle, the cost of disposal and/or reclamation of the products and by-products of the energy generation. The list of "costs" gets longer and longer, and in some cases the answers are not known. As a example, consider nuclear fission. The "spent" fuel rods can be reprocessed to a degree; however, there is a certain fraction for which there is no known use at present. It has been proposed that these radioactive wastes be buried in geological stable areas such as Nevada. However, these sites would have to be monitored for several thousand years. We simply have no data on how the radiation would affect the structural integrity of the containers on that time scale. There are no 'accelerated' tests to answer that question. The cost of re-packaging the radioactive waste 300 or 800 years from now can only be guessed. It is possible that by then technology would be developed to make that concern irrelevant. Maybe methane / water clathrates may provide alternative sources of energy for some applications.

The questions, much less the answers, are many and difficult. A "Google" search on cost of energy production will cover some of these issues, but the problems are really quite monumental.

Vince Calder



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