What is Jevons Effect?

What is Jevons Effect?

What is Jevons Effect? Jonathan Poland

Jevons paradox, also known as the Jevons effect, is a phenomenon in which an increase in the efficiency of resource use leads to an increase in resource consumption, rather than a decrease. The paradox is named after economist William Stanley Jevons, who first described it in his 1865 book, “The Coal Question.”

Jevons observed that as the efficiency of steam engines improved, coal consumption actually increased, rather than decreasing as one might expect. He argued that this was due to the fact that improvements in efficiency led to a decrease in the cost of using coal, which in turn increased demand for coal. This increased demand offset the savings that were realized through improved efficiency, resulting in overall higher resource consumption.

Jevons paradox has been observed in a number of other resource consumption contexts, including energy use, water use, and transportation. For example, as cars become more fuel efficient, people may be more likely to drive more, leading to an overall increase in fuel consumption.

One of the key drivers of Jevons paradox is the rebound effect, which refers to the tendency of people to use more of a resource when it becomes cheaper or more convenient to do so. This can lead to a “rebound” in resource consumption, even when efficiency improvements have been made.

Jevons paradox highlights the importance of considering the broader economic and social factors that can influence resource. There are several factors that can contribute to the paradox, including:

  1. Decreased costs: As the efficiency of a resource increases, the cost of using it may decrease, making it more affordable and attractive to consumers.
  2. Increased convenience: Improved efficiency can also increase the convenience of using a resource, making it more appealing to consumers.
  3. Changes in behavior: Improved efficiency can also alter consumer behavior, as people may be more likely to engage in activities that they previously avoided due to the cost or inconvenience of using the resource.
  4. Indirect impacts: Improved efficiency may also have indirect impacts on resource consumption, such as increasing the demand for products or services that use the resource.
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