Unearthing the true cost

Two new studies published by Carol Olson and Frank Lenzmann in MRS Energy and Sustainability – A Review Journal (MRS E&S) shed light on the true economic, social and environmental impacts of photovoltaics as compared to those of the fossil fuel supply chain.

Olson and Lenzmann, who work at the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands, compared the economics associated with all the major fuel supply chains, including oil and gas, coal and nuclear. They conclude that the current system is weighted heavily in favour of fossil and nuclear fuels at the expense of more sustainable energy sources – revealing that support for renewable energy sources is dwarfed in magnitude as well as in duration in comparison to the subsidies shoring up fossil and nuclear fuels.

The authors’ timely analysis of the historical and current fossil fuel supply chain provides a useful perspective that challenges what they refer to as ‘limited frames of reference when addressing the consequences of business-as-usual operation of fossil fuel supply chains.’ Their extensive commentary looks at the complete subsidy chain both for production and consumption of fossil and nuclear fuels so that it is now possible, for the first time, to compare all the energy options fairly, revealing costs that have historically been hidden along the supply chain.

To read the full articles visit http://journals.cambridge.org/action/login and search by author name.