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Rebounds and Jevons: Nobody Goes There Anymore. It’s Too Crowded

by James Barrett • January 18, 2011 @ 8:27 am

This is the second post in a series on the rebound effect and energy efficiency by Real Climate Economics blogger James Barrett. It  originally appeared in the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward

My last post on David Owen’s piece in the New Yorker and on the Jevons effect stirred up some interesting questions and discussion that I want to follow up on here. My last one purposely avoided some of the more technical parts of the issue to keep it readable and under my word limit. I think I’m about to undo that.

But first we should pay thanks to the great 20th Century philosopher, Yogi Berra, from whom I shamelessly stole the title of this post. Though he discovered it nearly 100 years after Stanley Jevons, I believe his 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. (more…)

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Rebounds Gone Wild

by James Barrett • January 10, 2011 @ 11:30 am

This post by Real Climate Economics blogger James Barrett originally appeared on the Great Energy Challenge blog, in partnership with National Geographic and Planet Forward.

Energy efficiency has become very popular in recent years. So much so that it’s becoming cool for the truly hip to hold it in disdain.

Case in point: David Owen’s piece in this week’s New Yorker: The Efficiency Dilemma”  (subscription required).

It reads like he’s being contrary just for the sake of being contrary. I don’t want to make a habit of highlighting this type of work, and to do a thorough job of dismantling the piece would take more time and space than I have. But it generated some genuinely interesting conversations in my email this week and I have a hard time letting such poor and frankly lazy reasoning pass without comment.

As a compromise, I’ll try to focus more on the serious issues in the article and less on the serious issues I have with the article itself. Wish me luck. (more…)

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Climate Economics 101 Continued: Carbon Pricing

by James Barrett • September 28, 2010 @ 5:25 am

My last blog post discussed issues of efficiency and fairness in climate policy. Specifically, it showed how climate policy can achieve one without the other. From an economic standpoint, fairness is irrelevant to designing an effective and efficient policy tool. It’s not that economists don’t like fairness, but it exists at a right angle to efficiency, which economists tend to like more.

In the real world, fairness matters a lot, and efficiency often gets second billing. This is both good and bad. I’m not sure even economists would want to live in a world where everything was efficient but nothing was fair. But it also means that sometimes we have to sacrifice efficiency (and accept higher costs) to achieve fairness. This is not always the case, and one of the main reasons the E3 Network was formed is to develop and highlight policy solutions that can achieve both, as well as to make the case that fairness deserves at least equal billing. This might sound like common sense, but I promise you it’s heresy in many economic debates. (more…)

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