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Name: Garrick C Burkhardt
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Question:
Why is the scientific community not doing more to develop commercial energy alternatives other than oil (i.e., wind, solar) that will not harm the environment?



Replies:
There may be more action on alternative energy than you think, but basically, it all comes down to money. Scientists generally chase dollars like everyone else, and right now industry has no incentive to hire scientists to research alternative fuels because oil prices are low and going lower. The US government (Department of Energy) does not have too much money to throw at the problem either, and the powers that be have determined that fusion reactor research should take priority over alternative energy. But do not despair - new developments in photochemistry are cutting the costs of solar cells in half every few years. Someday they may be as cheap as oil, in which case more development money will flow toward alternative energy research to develop products with practical applications. This is a good question, though, and I have been pestering the people in the engineering and physics section of Ask- A-Scientist about it.

You might be interested in an article by Starr, et al. in the May 15, 1992 issue of "Science" magazine, pages 981-987, which give a realistic assessment of energy alternatives.

Mortis



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