Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Improving efficiency runs counter to sustainabilty: the Jevons Paradox

In his excellent analysis of the probable effects of coming oil shortages, Matt Savinar puts his finger on something that goes counter to what a lot of sustainability- promoters advocate: increasing efficiency will run counter to promoting sustainability.

As we have to reduce energy consumption by 80% we should work to create more efficient use of energy, right?

Wrong according to Savinar as he refers to Jevon's observations, widely known as the Jevon's paradox.

Looking at the use of coal in early industrial England, Jevons observes in his book from 1865, The Coal Question, that consumption of coal soared after James Watt introduced a more efficient steam engine.

Not a logical paradox, of course, but still called a paradox as it runs contrary to the comon intuition that that improved efficiency will mean people use less of a resource.

OUR COMMENT: This makes our model, which restricts the use of fossil fuels to fulfilling steps one and two of the Maslow hierarchy, look even more important! For our take on it look into the top ten points (below).

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites