Jevons Paradox in the Financial Times

The FT does special reports – usually 8 pages of reportage and adverts – about lots of different issues.  On Tuesday April 24th it was the turn of “Sustainable Business” to get the treatment.

In an article entitled Companies try to reduce humanity’s footprint, Sarah Murray wrote

“However, set against these developments is the fact that the overall impact of business activities on the planet is intensifying. Companies may be reducing the impact of many parts of their business but their overall footprint it [sic] still expanding rapidly to meet shareholder demands for increased profit margins.”

That’d be our old friend Jevons’ Paradox…

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2 Responses to Jevons Paradox in the Financial Times

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    Jevons Paradox has been subject in the USA to detailed analyses shared at Joe Romm’s Think Progress/Climate blog.

    Here’s a couple posts below that seem most relevant.

    For lay people like me on these sorts of issues, I find it is quite a challenge to stay informed, let alone feel that I ‘know’ what the consensus is. And I’m motivated. It must seem impossible for the ordinary citizen.

    =============

    Debunking the Jevons Paradox: Nobody goes there anymore, its too crowded

    By Climate Guest Blogger on Feb 16, 2011 at 11:53 am

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/02/16/207532/debunking-jevons-paradox-jim-barrett/

    The “Jevons paradox,” asserts that increasing “the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.” It is mostly if not entirely bunk, as the scientific literature and leading experts have demonstrated many times (see “Efficiency lives “” the rebound effect, not so much“).

    But it lingers on in part because it is one of those quirky, ill-defined contrarian notions that the media can’t get enough of and in part because those who oppose clean energy, often for bizarre ideological reasons, keep pushing it.

    So I’m reposting two debunkings written by Real Climate Economics expert Dr. Jim Barrett. As noted in the second post (whose Yogi Berra quote I repeated for my headline), “Though he discovered it nearly 100 years after Stanley Jevons, I believe [Berra’s] exploration of the Jevons effect is more complete and accurate than Jevons’ own, as well as being vastly shorter. The notion that we could get so efficient at using energy that we’d end up using more is about as valid as the idea that a restaurant could get so crowded that it was empty.

    ==============

    Energy Efficiency Lives! Devastating Debunking of Rebound Effect and Breakthrough Institute

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/01/12/403005/energy-efficiency-lives-debunking-rebound-effect-and-breakthrough-institute/?mobile=nc

    By Climate Guest Blogger on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Our fact-checking revealed that empirical estimates of energy rebound cited by the Breakthrough Institute are over-estimated or wrong, and they contradict the technological reality of energy efficiency gains observed in many industrial sectors. For journalists, the Rebound Effect is a trap—it is a man-bites-dog story that never happened.

    • dwighttowers says:

      Hi Sam,
      thanks for both of these.
      For me, the issue of Jevons Paradox is tied in to the ideology of infinite growth. I do not oppose clean energy, energy efficiency on “ideological” grounds, which is mostly about how it will cost companies money etc etc. I oppose the rhetoric around “efficiency” as part of the overall notion of ecological modernisation – that we can become ever more efficient and so continue on the same path. That rhetoric ignores – growing population (and the pesky nature of that population. They want to live like Westeners! How unreasonable of them…) and the fact that we have a myriad of other catastrophic environmental problems about to come down on our heads. “Efficiency” – whether tied to the rebound effect or not, is a soothing story we keep telling ourselves… Efficiency and massive demand reduction by turning our economies away from planned obsolecence, consumerism etc might help us grow habits of resilience. But right now, efficiency and clean energy is just a con… I think. But I could be wrong…

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