Friday, November 23, 2012

Energy conservation and the Jevons principle

The Jevons principle is simple. If demand for energy is strong, efficiency is subsumed in greater use.

Currently fossil fuel energy is constrained mainly by price. So what is the effect of conservation measures such as insulation, and fuel efficiency? Both appear to affect demand, but in fact, they do not challenge autosprawl, a main source of the strong demand for energy. Consequently they simply facilitate more consumption by relieving price pressure.

Free transit, however, would begin a process of culture change. Cities would become more attractive. The critical mass of the auto would be broken. Sprawl would become more expensive. Autosprawl subsidy would be seen as a burden instead of a necessary expense. If the savings were used for education and health, the birthrate would fall. The suburbs could be converted to organic farms.