The Jevons Paradox and the Rebound Effect

The U.S. imposed its first automobile fuel-economy regulations in 1975, a response to the Arab oil embargo. (If you’re old enough, you remember lining up to buy gasoline and odd-even days to fill up, based on your license number.) Since then, average miles-per-gallon has gone from 13.5 to about 27 now. (33 for cars, 24 for light trucks. Overall consumption has increased, however, the result of more miles driven – more than double since then – increased horsepower and heavier vehicles. Hence what is called the “Rebound Effect.”

In the mid-nineteenth century, William Stanley Jevons published “The Coal Question,” a book casting doubt on England’s long-term prospects as a world power. Britain’s industrial and military dominance was supported by its abundance of coal, a natural resource it was rapidly depleting. Jevons argued that conservation, e.g. energy efficiency, would not delay the inevitable depletion.

It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.

His thesis, also known as the “Jevons Paradox,” is that the more something is perceived as economical, the more people will use. Our cars are more fuel efficient, so we drive more.

Since climate-change has officially been determined to be a hoax and unfair to the U.S., we may as well extract all the fossil fuels and burn them. And if it turns out that burning carbon is not good for us? Not to worry, Mother Earth will recover and be just fine after we’re gone.

(For a rebuttal of the Jevons Paradox, click here.)