Friday, July 8, 2011

Without Incandescent Lights, Energy Use Will Not Decline

My comment to The Wall Street Journal article, "New Flare-Up in Light-Bulb Wars" by Ryan Tracy and Stephanie Gleason:
Energy use in the US, per person, is at the same level it was 40 years ago, despite government mandates for energy efficient appliance, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, etc. Many appliances today use about half the electricity they did 40 years ago, yet we use more energy per person today.

Economists recognize this as the Jevons Effect or Jevons Paradox, which was first noted in the 1800s. When an apparatus becomes more efficient, it becomes cheaper to use. When something is cheaper, we tend to use more of it.

Households will use more light than before the mandate to switch away from incandescent bulbs because light will be cheaper to use. When households switched from candles and oil based lamps, which were expensive, to gas and electric lights, which were relatively cheaper, more lighting was used in the home.

Mandating energy conservation in a product does not reduce energy use. Households respond to the energy cost savings by using more of the same item or by using the left over household funds for energy for other energy using apparatuses.

Governmental mandates almost never achieve their intended results.

The same logic applies to autos. Increasing mpg, lowers the cost of auto travel per mile, which increases the distance people are willing to travel by car. Despite mpg increases, gasoline consumption (excluding the current economic downturn) does not go down. The trade-off is less safe, smaller cars without any total gasoline consumption benefit.

There are only two ways to reduce the use of energy or some other item; raise its price or limit its availability. Energy efficiency never reduces energy use.

Removing a choice is about control and elitism. It is not about doing good for the US, the environment or the household because it will never achieve its stated goal.

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