Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/593

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THE period of contest and denial over the question of the possibility of producing a light of low intensity by means of electricity, that would be suitable for the general purposes of interior lighting, has about drawn to a close. It is now pretty generally conceded—what there has never been any reason for denying—that the known laws of electric transmission interpose no bar to the successful solution of the problem, but that the difficulties in the way are solely of a practical kind. And it is, further, quite generally agreed that these practical difficulties have been for the most part resolved, and the question reduced down to one of cost simply; and, while a good deal of discussion has taken place upon this point, but little has been written that will enable the general public to form a judgment upon the subject, and arrive at a trustworthy opinion of the relative cost of it and gas under actual commercial conditions.

In estimating the relative cost of the two illuminants, it has been common to compare simply the cost of the materials consumed in their production, or, when the cost of the apparatus necessary to generate the electricity has been taken into account, this has usually been upon the basis of a limited production, and, to this extent, unfair to electricity. A comparison, to be of any value, should be between plants of a size sufficient to reduce the cost to the lowest point at which it can be commercially maintained, and should include all of the items entering into it. The attempt has been made, in the following pages, to institute such a comparison, and present the facts in the case as they are, so far as they can be obtained. The comparison is upon the basis of works capable of producing a million feet a day, as, in such works, gas can be made as cheaply as in any that are