If efficiency hasn't cut energy use, then what?
- December 16, 2010
- Research by Kenneth Small, economics professor, is featured in the Grist December 15, 2010
From the Grist:
One of the most penetrating critiques of energy-efficiency dogma you'll ever read is in this week's New Yorker (yes, the New Yorker). "The efficiency dilemma," by David Owen, has this provocative subtitle: "If our machines use less energy, will we just use them more?" Owen's answer is a resounding, iconoclastic, and probably correct Yes.... A short form of the Jevons paradox, and a good entry point for discussing it, is the "rebound effect" -- the tendency to employ more of something when efficiency has effectively cut its cost. The rebound effect is a staple of transportation analysis, in two separate forms. One is the rebound in gallons of gas consumed when fuel efficiency standards have reduced the fuel cost to drive a mile. The other is the rebound from the reduction in car trips after imposition of a road toll, now that the drop in traffic has made it possible to cover the same ground in less time. Rebound effect one turns out to be small. As UC Irvine economics professor Ken Small has shown, no more than 20 percent of the gasoline savings from improved engine efficiency have been lost to the tendency to drive more miles -- and much less in the short term. Rebound effect two is more significant and becoming more so, as time increasingly trumps money in the decision-making of drivers, at least better-off ones.
For the full story, please visit http://www.grist.org/article/2010-12-15-if-efficiency-hasnt-cut-energy-u....