More Efficiency Adds Up to More Use

Or… why we need to actually change what we do, not just how we do it.

Check out this story from Bjørn Lomborg, the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School.

“Back in the early 1970’s, the average American expended roughly 70 million (BTUs) per year to heat, cool, and power his or her home. Since then, of course, we have made great strides in energy efficiency …. So how much energy do Americans use in their homes today? … roughly what it was 40 years ago: 70 million BTUs.

This surprising lack of change is the result of something economists call the “rebound effect” …  the more efficient we get at using something, the more of it we are likely to use. Efficiency doesn’t reduce consumption; it increases it.

… Research findings along these lines, published in August in The Journal of Physics by energy economist Harry Saunders and four colleagues from the US Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories… found that, “as lighting becomes more energy efficient, and thus cheaper, we use ever-more of it….”

The article ends with, “…we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that swapping our current car for a Prius, or replacing our incandescent lights with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, will strike a meaningful blow against climate change.”

The author suggests it is more important to pressure government to give us better answers. I think the author can afford to say that because he doesn’t live in the U.S.

I think from a personal action standpoint, while we can try to influence legislators, we can also work on making more radical change, not simply going for the easy fix.

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