Researchers argue energy policy rebound effect is overestimated

Jan 24, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
A close-up of a plug-in hybrid car. Critics of energy efficiency programs in public policy debates have cited the rebound effect as a reason that hybrid cars and plug-in electric vehicles, for example, don't really save energy in the long run. But an economist has found the so-called 'rebound' effect is inaccurate. Credit: Karin Higgins/UC Davis

(Phys.org)—Researchers from Yale University, the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund argue in a Nature commentary piece that those who suggest the rebound effect, as it applies to energy policy, negates gains, are exaggerating its impact.

The rebound effect is where energy savings due to implementing programs or technology that reduce the amount of , are offset by increased use in another way. One example is where drivers of drive more miles because they know it costs less. In their commentary, the researchers suggest that the percentage of savings lost does not override the benefit of the initial savings, and thus such efforts should continue. They say their research indicates that the rebound effect may vary overall from 5 to 30 percent – not nearly enough to cancel out the savings and benefits.

The rebound effect actually comes about in four ways – one direct, one indirect and two via macroeconomic changes. The direct way is when consumers use their car or more after purchasing one that is more energy efficient. The indirect way is where consumers, upon discovering they have more cash on hand due to energy savings, use that money to purchase other products that consume energy. A macroeconomic rebound effect can occur when an entire nation reduces its consumption of a resource such as oil, causing its price to fall. That in turn causes people in other nations to use more. Another instance is where reduced consumption of a resource on a national or even global scale can cause more economic growth, which of course leads to using more of that resource.

The researchers looked at all the various scenarios where the rebound effect can play out and calculated that despite a resurgence of consumption via other means, even if it were to approach 50 percent, it's still worth the conversion effort – both from a financial perspective and as a means to slow . Because of that, they suggest that scientists and people in the media, who suggest it's pointless to try to implement plans due to the rebound effect, reconsider their stance as it serves only to harm such efforts.

Explore further: First of four Fukushima reactors cleared of nuclear fuel

More information: Energy policy: The rebound effect is overplayed, Nature 493, 475–476 (24 January 2013) doi:10.1038/493475a

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Shootist
2.5 / 5 (8) Jan 24, 2013
Idiot savants shouldn't study, make or implement policy.

Wolkenkuckucksheim!
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (6) Jan 24, 2013
use their car or washing machine

You wash when your clothes are dirty - not because you can afford to wash.

One example is where drivers of electric vehicles drive more miles because they know it costs less.

Why would anyone think that drivers would drive more? Or people in other countries would use a cheaper resource more? You drive/use a resource out of necessity (to work, shopping, to a vacation spot, whatever). For that it doesn't matter what kind of vehicle you have.

If anything EVs would be better, because right now you'd rather fly long distances than drive on regular gasoline - because flights are cheaper than paying for that much gas. But flying produces a LOT more exhausts than driving per person and mile covered.
If more people were to drive EVs for longer distance because it's cheaper per mile than flying then that would affect the eco-balance positively.
tadchem
not rated yet Jan 24, 2013
The 'rebound effect' is simply Jevons Paradox rechristened. Jevons formulated the concept based upon observable changes in the actual coal energy market rather than on rhetorical wish-fulfillment.
The details of the historical anaysis are here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox
tadchem
2 / 5 (1) Jan 24, 2013
In the case of vehicle use, when the price of fuels drops, people are more likely to purchase cars which consume more fuel (because they can now afford it) and which provide more comfort, headroom, ride height, hauling capacity, & safety (which they *want*). This is the basis for the huge upsurge in SUV / truck use http://en.wikiped...pularity
since the end of the 1979 'Energy Crisis' http://en.wikiped...2007.svg
There *is* recent historical precedent for the 'rebound effect'.
VendicarD
2.5 / 5 (8) Jan 24, 2013
ShooTard is upset that another Consrevative excuse for inaction has been debunked. - Again.

"Idiot savants shouldn't study, make or implement policy. " - ShooTard

ShooTard's religious faith in the Free Market is a pathological disease, like every other form of mindless faith.
VendicarD
3 / 5 (6) Jan 24, 2013
If the faithful hold that increasing efficiency negates the efficiency increase by causing more consumption, then it follows that decreasing efficiency should cause less consumption by the application of very same logic.

Conservative and Libertarian Tards, if they believed their own nonsense, would be demanding the manufacture of the least efficient machines possible since they would minimize consumption and therefore consumer costs.

They never advance such arguments of course, because they really don't believe their own nonsense rhetoric.

But by lying, they do support their own immoral ideology.
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) Jan 24, 2013
If more people were to drive EVs for longer distance


But you can't drive EVs for long distances because you have to stop for a recharge every 75 miles. That simply kills your average speed.

That's also the reason why EV owners won't drive more - they can't drive more, unless they're stupid and just drive around the same block over and over again for the hell of it.
Eikka
1 / 5 (3) Jan 24, 2013
then it follows that decreasing efficiency should cause less consumption


It's a well known phenomenon that increase in supply leads to increase in demand because the prices go down. A new equilibrium is then reached where the increased demand meets the prices that start to rise in response to the new demand.

In the case of efficiency improvements, it's effecively the same as making energy cheaper, which means more people will use more of their energy consuming gadgets to the point that it starts to cost more again.

If you then decrease efficiency, you're simply returning the situation back to the previous case where less people use their devices less, but the amount of energy consumed remains constant.

So what you're saying is a non-sequitur.
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (4) Jan 24, 2013
which means more people will use more of their energy consuming gadgets to the point that it starts to cost more again.

Why? If you've bought a energy saving fridge, TV, car, whatever...will you now throw it out and buy an energy hog just because energy has gotten cheaper?

Or will you not just buy a similarly energy saving appliance and continue to enjoy the savings.

It's not like there's anyone left on the planet who doesn't know that we're currently operating on finite resources. And any fool knows that no matter how cheap a finite resource gets - when it starts to run out it'll get expensive.

Increase efficiency and have people stay with their usecases. The endeffect is more disposable income. Everybody wins.
VendicarD
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 24, 2013
The only way a new stable equilibrium can be reached is if the lowered cost produces even lower consumption, which of course is exactly what the article and researchers are claiming.

"A new equilibrium is then reached where the increased demand meets the prices that start to rise in response to the new demand." - Eikka

A push can not negate it's own existence in systems which are stable.

VendicarD
5 / 5 (2) Jan 24, 2013
Sorry but you simply aren't being consistent.

"If you then decrease efficiency, you're simply returning the situation back to the previous case where less people use their devices less, but the amount of energy consumed remains constant." - Eikka

The observation that improvements efficiency leads to slight retraction in the new efficiency state necessarily implies that a slight reduction in efficiency produces a slightly greater level of consumption than the new reduced efficiency state.

The reason for this is obvious. If one takes the new lowered efficiency state as the current state then by the first observation increasing the efficiency to the previous state will produce more consumption than anticipated.

The reflexive property must hold since it's application to a less efficient state must produce the current state.
VendicarD
3.3 / 5 (3) Jan 24, 2013
That would only be true if the distance driven was strictly determined by the charge time.

"But you can't drive EVs for long distances because you have to stop for a recharge every 75 miles." - Eikka

We know that it isn't the case, don't we?

You are overplaying your hand.
kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (6) Jan 24, 2013
then it follows that decreasing efficiency should cause less consumption

@Eikka It's a well known phenomenon that increase in supply leads to increase in demand because the prices go down. A new equilibrium is then reached where the increased demand meets the prices that start to rise in response to the new demand.
Not when the supply and demand of a good or service is considered perfectly inelastic
tom_swift_33483
2 / 5 (1) Jan 24, 2013
EV vehicles would sell better if they had larger models. Something about the size of a F-350. The truck frame has the capacity to install a larger battery pack making long distance drives practical. And the size wouldn't matter because EVs don't use fossil fuels.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2013
Not when the supply and demand of a good or service is considered perfectly inelastic


Car usage isn't.

We know that it isn't the case, don't we?


No we don't. Give me an affordable electric vehicle with an EPA tested range of significantly more than 75 miles, that is highway capable, and I'll concede to the point.

The issue is, that it takes one hour to drive 75 miles, and three hours to charge up for another 75 miles with current technology. The fast charging problem is far from solved.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2013
Why? If you've bought a energy saving fridge, TV, car, whatever...will you now throw it out and buy an energy hog just because energy has gotten cheaper?


No. It is not a universal principle that applies to every product.

In the case of cars, improving the efficiency means you pay less for the fuel, which means you can afford to drive more, which reflects in things like how many times a week you drive to the supermarket. Since you don't need to save on the fuel, instead of stocking up once per week, you may drive more often and bring less stuff back so you can have fresh items more often than once a week.

Or another example is that instead of taking the bus, you might drive downtown to see a movie because it's more convenient.

With everyone doing the same, the increase in efficiency is balanced off by increase in use.
Eikka
1 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2013
Increase efficiency and have people stay with their usecases. The endeffect is more disposable income. Everybody wins.


You must be relatively well off an relatively blind to not notice that for more than half the people, the limiting factor in how much they consume is their low income, whether it's alcohol, food, computer games or gasoline for the car.

Make things cheaper, and they'll just buy more.

VendicarD
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2013

"No we don't" - Eikka

Then your conclusion is invalid.

"The issue is, that it takes one hour to drive 75 miles, and three hours to charge up for another 75 miles..." - Eikka

Sorry, but you may have such issues, but the average person does not. My requirements for example are the ability to travel the speed limit and get me to the grocery store, and get the kids to school when they are late. Occasionally I need to visit a friend. And I need to get to work.

Total distance required 18 miles per day for work, and another 10 for school. So 30 miles, half of it at 90 km/h.

Existing electric cars do that easily.
VendicarD
3 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2013
"Make things cheaper, and they'll just buy more." - Eikka

The article claims that the amount more is less than the amount saved by the increase in the efficiency.

This is self evident even without research.

So you improve product efficiency by 50 percent and you improve market efficiency by 40%.

I can live with that.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jan 26, 2013
But flying produces a LOT more exhausts than driving per person and mile covered.

I agree with most of your post,but I wonder if you are right about flying producing a lot more GHGs than driving the same distance.Don't forget,you are travelling roughly 10 times faster,thus you get to where you are going in 1/10 the time,assuming on time departure and arrival.Also,the plane you are flying in carries hundreds of passengers.Finally,you can't drive long distances non-stop in an electric car yet,so you have to depend on a car with an ICE.Hybrids don't save you anything on the highway over a fuel efficient regular auto-they only shine in stop and go city driving. I will concede that city driven battery electric cars are wonderful for the pocketbook and the environment,depending of course,on the source of the juice used to charge them.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Jan 26, 2013
Here you can see some various calculations on the subject
http://environmen...rive.htm

.Don't forget,you are travelling roughly 10 times faster

That's irrelevant. It's the amount of pollutants created per mile that counts. (And never forget that with planes you also have to add transfer to and from the airport.)

Another issue is water vapor and aerosols. High altuitude water vapor and aerosols from planes are more of a problem than the same substances at low altitude.

Finally,you can't drive long distances non-stop in an electric car yet

That really depends how you plan your trip. Some of the newer batteries top up in an hour.

depending of course,on the source of the juice used to charge them.

Planes don't have the option of going green - ever. EVs do. The 'depends on the source' argument is a red herring.
Sean_W
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 26, 2013
I don't care what part of the political spectrum a person crawls out of, using the term "tard" as an insult is offensive to the point of sickening. People with mental challenges have far more worth as human beings than people who use them for a synonym of sub-human.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jan 26, 2013

Planes don't have the option of going green - ever. EVs do. The 'depends on the source' argument is a red herring.

Thanks for the link,very interesting info there.The only hope for aircraft would then be jet biofuel,I guess.

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