The Great Energy Challenge
Jevons Paradox Past
Case in point: David Owen’s piece in this week's New Yorker: "The Efficiency Dilemma".
The focus of the article is something called the Jevons paradox (named after economist William Jevons), or the more common and more broadly defined “rebound effect.” In essence the rebound effect is the fact that as energy efficiency goes up, using energy consuming products becomes less expensive, which in turn leads us to consume more energy.
Jevons' claim was that this rebound effect would be so large that increasing energy efficiency would not decrease energy use. The rebound effect would eat up all of the energy savings. Full Post »
Lost in the comments is Owen's call — admittedly buried in a paragraph near the end of his article — for setting carbon taxes, establishing carbon caps and similar powerful policies. He's right. But he might have tossed away the energy efficiency as a power tool to meet these goals in his screed.
Terrific comment thread. Thanks for getting this started James.