|Overview: Jevons Paradox|
The observation that energy or resource efficient technologies can spark greater overall consumption of a resource due to demand driven by price decreases.
What is Jevons Paradox?
John Spacey, updated on February 10, 2017
Jevons paradox is the observation that improved energy efficiency can increase the overall consumption of energy by making an activity cheaper and thus more scalable or accessible.The classic example of Jevons paradox is the observation that England's consumption of coal jumped after the introduction of efficiency improvements in steam engines, namely the Watt steam engine. Theoretical examples are also easy to construct. For example, space travel is currently prohibitively expensive primarily because of the energy required to achieve orbit. If space travel becomes more efficient, it may spark an industry in space tourism that is accessible to the masses much as air travel is today.Jevons paradox can not be considered a universal rule because counter examples exist. For example, people arguably don't care about the energy efficiency of household appliances enough for it to change consumption patterns. The environmental problems caused by Jevons paradox can be solved with strategies such as an ecotax that raises the cost of an activity even when it becomes more efficient.
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