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xkcd: the cost of electricity

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Several readers sent word about this massive xkcd chart about money. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. It is both massive and fascinating and is a handy way to compare the scale and breadth of everything from iPad’s to the national deficit.

In the “billions” section is a breakdown of how much it would cost to power the United States for a year, by fuel type:

According to the chart, wind, hydro, biomass, advanced combined cycle natural gas, conventional coal, and geothermal are all in the same ballpark in terms of cost. Of course, overall resource supply isn’t taken into account (is there even enough hydro capacity in the United States?), and neither is geographic availability (geothermal isn’t available everywhere, for example). But I do think this chart does do a good job of laying out direct costs and some of the external costs for various fuel types.

I would love to see energy efficiency and conservation thrown in for good measure. Maybe next time!

Overall a great chart that obviously took a long time to compile and put together. The data sources are available here.

Have an interesting link or story? Let me know.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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