Talk:Jevons paradox

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Question about the corollary[edit]

As far as the example in the article goes I have a question, the 2 additional workers hired by this hypothetical environmentally efficient company use up more energy by commuting only if they were unemployed previously? If they commuted the same distance to their previous job then there is no net increase in energy loss/inefficiency, right? What if these two new employees discover an even greater efficiency? Is this paradox basically saying that any efficiency has to be ubiquitous to really help long term? I think this article needs more info and clarity. zen master T 01:23, 18 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I agree and would like to see the article be much longer. You are correct in your statement that Jevon's paradox implies that the efficiency of overall systems is far more important than individual systems, but it goes one step further. What it is saying is that the economy can now support two new additional workers that could not have been supported before because of the cost savings from using alternative energy. When there is cost savings the economy will expand to consume the conserved resources and the net result will be increased consumption. John187 17:08, 18 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Is this Jevons paradox definitely true or just likely? What are the implications? Is it implying things like fuel efficiency must be mandated by law for any efficiency to work globally? Is it saying that in an environment of decreasing energy supplies any localized energy efficiency won't help overall? Does this paradox only exist when the global economy or certain local economies are expanding or trying to expand? If I had to guess I think this paradox disappears when economic expansion in the traditional sense is replaced with a concept of using increased efficiencies to maintain the status quo of economic output but with less and less energy, rather than trying to expand. This sounds vaguely similar to Steady State economic theory, but I don't know enough about that either. Is there a wikipedia article on that? zen master T 18:37, 18 Mar 2005 (UTC)
It's just speculation and conjecture. Jevon noticed that the consumption of coal skyrocketed after the introduction of the Watt steam engine, which very efficiently converted the coal into work. Rather than old technology which were too expensive to use, the Watt engine made coal burning useful on a mass scale. So despite the fact that the Watt engine was far more energy efficient (think hydrogen fuel cells, solar power, wind energy ...) than previous technology, coal consumption actually sky rocketed. I have wondered if there is a way to relate this idea to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, but havn't come up with a good way yet. Still, I have to admit that when I read Jevon I do get a kind of hint at the concepts of energy conservation (physics) and entropy. In particular the idea that energy consumption will either be the same or will increase strikes me as the same statement as the 2nd law. In physics the second law results from the fact that a gas must grow to consume the entire volume that contains it. The gas can't live in half the jar, that would be crazy, it fills the whole thing, so we end up with entropy. The question in economics is if people can live in half the jar or if we fill up the whole damn thing. So far, and based on Jevon's paradox, it looks like we want to fill up the whole thing, or use all the available energy as much as possible, but I suppose there are those that hope we may eventually learn to subsist in half the jar. Wish I could answer this question. John187 03:57, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I have doubts about the whole corollary section. First, I cannot see a clear statement of what is the corollary. Second, I think the example is not particularly clear, and a different example might be better. But something about this is still continuing: since 1973, industrialised countries have substantially increased their energy efficiency, and this has helped economic growth, meaning we now consume more energy despite a sharply reduced enegy intensity.

The Corollary is confusing and nonsensical. I'm new to wikipedia so i wont do it, but i'll say that it ruins the article. Also, can't Jevons paradox be applied to labor/wages? (ie as a refutation to marxist "wage slavery"). Marxists believe that increased industrial efficiency would mean perpetually decreasing demand for labor and therefore perpetually decreasing wages- Jevons paradox, if applied to labor, would indicate that as industrial efficiency increases, the demand for labor actually increases because increases in demand for product outstrips increased productivity. I've always that this was a better application of jevons paradox.

I too would like to see an expansion of this article (but also won't be the one to write it) and I'd like to know more about how this can effect overall efficiency efforts. Cars, for instance, appear to be driven more the less is spent on gasoline and hence hybrids may have less efficiency than the raw numbers would suggest. But the amount of use my TV and computer get have almost nothing to do with their power consumption. When does Jevon's paradox apply and when doesn't it? When does greater efficiency result in increased energy usage and when does Jevon's paradox merely result in a drag on efficiency?

A Corollary to the Jevons Paradox (utter garbage)[edit]

Localized solutions to global problems often confound the solution of the overall problem. Jevons paradox implies that as individuals become increasingly efficient, the overall economy will compensate by supporting additional individuals and increasing overall consumption.

For example, consider a green business which attempts to alleviate global environmental concerns by consuming renewable energy resources. If the business saves 10 units of energy from the local power plant which operates at 40% efficiency, they will save 1000 units of currency. This cost savings will allow the business to hire an additional two employees.

However, each of these two employees must commute to work in automobiles. These automobiles still consume 10 units of energy because they operate at only 15% energy efficiency. Thus by switching to renewable energy, the business has reduced the overall energy efficiency per unit of consumed resources from 40% to 15%.

By first saving money, then using it to hire two new employees, the green business has actually expanded the economy. The expansion of the economy will most likely result in an overall increase in energy consumption, which in the example above also shows the possibility of reducing energy efficiency by its effects in the wider community.

This paradox illustrates how difficult it is to solve global economic problems.


1) Why does the automobile consumes exactly 10 units of energy, which is exactly the amount saved by the factory?

2) Why does 1 unit of energy cost 100 unit of currency?

3) Why does the efficiency of total energy comsumption drop from 40% to 15% instead of 40% to 35% ? Is the energy efficiency inside the factory drop from 40% to 15% just because two new employees drive to work?

4) Why the assumption that the saving in energy in the factory is less than the energy consumption of two extra automobiles?

Someone removed the corollary section only to have the whole article reverted. In an attempt to avoid a revert war, I've removed the example from the corollary section, but left a quick description of what the alleged corollary is. The example was garbage that looked like it had just been made up without any real analysis behind it. If someone can come up with an example that can withstand scrutiny, please post it to the talk page first so it can be critiqued first. --Flatline 19:36, August 3, 2005 (UTC)
Seems like there is confusion around the word "paradox", perhaps we should retitle this article to something like Jevon's theory or something like energy efficiency paradox which seems like a more accurate way of describing Jevon's theories? A "paradox" does kind of exist in the sense that increased efficiency actually can make society overall less efficient when it comes to using resources in absolute terms, right? zen master T 19:46, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

"Jevons paradox" is the phrase used in economics. HGB 01:54, 10 August 2005 (UTC)

Corollary only appears on Wikipedia[edit]

I've just spent some time googling for the alleged corollary of Jevons paradox and didn't find any mention of it at all. The only hits on Google were Wikipedia and sites that scrape Wikipedia content. If the corollary were part of the normal discussion of Jevons paradox, then it might have a place in the article, but since it doesn't appear to be part of the normal discussion, I'm going to remove it from the article. If someone comes up with some references to the alleged corollary (outside of the Wikipedia article and sites that scraped the article), then we can discuss adding the corollary section back into the article. --Flatline 00:35, 24 August 2005 (UTC)

How is this even called a paradox?[edit]

Economists have held, since the very beginning, that an increase in supply inceases the quantity supplied and decreases the price. An increase in efficiency means an increase in supply, so of course more will be consumed. This doesn't contradict any intuition and hence is not a paradox. MrVoluntarist 20:43, 4 September 2005 (UTC)

Your analysis seems oversimplified to me. By increasing efficiency, the amount of fuel consumed for the same amount of work decreases (at the same time reducing cost of said work and reducing demand for the fuel). Overall consumption increases if and only if the reduction consumed by current applications is less than the fuel consumed by new applications made viable by the reduction in fuel costs.
Right. Hence, not a paradox. It's what basic economic theory predicts. MrVoluntarist 17:03, 5 September 2005 (UTC)
Should we add an ecomonic analysis to the article? --Flatline 11:55, 5 September 2005 (UTC)
Sure. And I know we can't do original research, but he arguments against it being a paradox can be a bit more prominent. MrVoluntarist 17:03, 5 September 2005 (UTC)
I made some changes to make clearer that it's an observation and has no predictive power of its own. Please take a look at it to make sure that I didn't introduce any factual errors or overstate anything. Also, I didn't bother to include any wiki-links, so feel free to add links back in as appropriate. --Flatline 19:12, 5 September 2005 (UTC)
I like your changes. If I think of anything that can improve it, I'll add it. MrVoluntarist 19:43, 5 September 2005 (UTC)
Here is why it is called a paradox, though I would concede it isn't exactly the right word. The theory supports the Malthusian argument that humans will eventually destroy themselves, or at least severely degrade their standard of living, by consuming all available natural resources. One of the earliest anti-Malthusian arguments was that increased efficiency could help solve the problem by making available resources last longer. Jevon's Paradox points out that increased efficiency has the opposite of the assumed effect - that it increases, rather than decreases, the rate of depletion. Sevenwarlocks 17:39, 3 January 2006 (UTC)
I think the statement "an increase in supply, so of course more will be consumed" is not necessarily true. I think this is where classical economists come unstuck. Perhaps this is an underlying assumption. Oddd

It's more of a Catch-22.[edit]

The purpose of efficiency is to reduce consumption. However efficiency improvements historically lead to additional consumption over the long term. So by attempting to reduce the consumption, it actually increases.

I disagree. The primary purpose of increased efficiency is to reduce costs. To draw any conclusions about long term consumption without more carefully looking at the context is premature. --Flatline 12:00, 5 September 2005 (UTC)
Also disagree. The purpose of inefficiency is to reduce costs so that you can consume more. Consuming more leads to more utility. Utility maximization is our ultimate goal. There's no catch- (talk) 06:59, 7 May 2009 (UTC

Increased efficiency does reduce costs, but it does so by decreasing the quantity of energy use. So it achieves cost reduction through consumption reduction.

You're confusing the goal with the means. The goal is to reduce costs. Often, but not always, the means is to reduce fuel consumption.
For example, if an engine could be built that required no maintanence ever, but consumed twice the fuel, there are people who would switch to it in a heartbeat even though it's less efficient. This is because for some applications, maintanence is a bigger expense than fuel.
Alternatively, if an engine was developed that burned half the fuel, but cost significantly more to manufacture, people would only be interested if it ran long enough and maintanence was cheap enough that the efficiency gains would eventually pay for the difference between the new engine and a conventional one. If the engine was too expensive to maintain or would fail irrepairably before the break-even point, nobody would buy it even though its use would reduce consumption. --Flatline 20:09, 4 November 2005 (UTC)
Does this "cost analysis" factor in the extra polution "costs" and need for extra fuel capacity and transoprtation "costs" that result from this twice as inefficient yet maintanence free engine? Costs to the comsumer or everyone are nevertheless costs, right? How do you reconcile fuel costs with say engine mechanic salary costs, are they truly comparable entities? zen master T 23:18, 4 November 2005 (UTC)
I think you are talking about the problem of externalities? --Mathish 16:00, 10 November 2005 (UTC)
Comparing fuel costs with engine mechanic salary costs is easy since with any mature engine design, efficiencies and maintenance schedules (including parts and downtime) are well known. All other costs are considered only if they are paid by the owner (for this is how all capital expense decisions are made). This includes any liability associated with the decision (for example, if a particular engine causes cancer in people close to it, you can be sure that that liability will have a cost assigned to it when the analysis is made. Same with pollution.). --Flatline 18:57, 10 November 2005 (UTC)

I think the reason it is considered a paradox is that most people don't expect it; for most people its counter-intuitive. Their thinking gets no further than 'an increase in efficiency in a system is good'. It IS good, but it is only when your thinking leads you across the boundary of that system that you realise the efficiency has most probably led to an increase in consumption. The use of the word 'paradox' is symptomatic of most people's inexperience in systems thinking. Or to put it another way; "it's only a 'paradox' if you aren't expecting it". The discipline of sustainability would would be greatly improved if we started thinking in systems' terms, then we would expect the Jevons effect, it wouldn't seem a paradox and we'd be ready to respond (instead of standing around wondering why we are bumping up against ecological tipping points!). Increasing efficiency is essential for sustainability, but its not sufficient! Grbrowne (talk) 01:10, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

When Jevon's Paradox Fails[edit]

Jevon's Paradox fails when the price of energy is going up since conservation only enables you to keep the bills in place rather than lowering them so you have no additional money from saving energy to spend elsewhere on consuming energy.

It can also fail if all or most of the money from energy savings is invested into more energy efficiency.

In general, Jevons Paradox will only apply when the limiting factor in using a particular fuel is the cost of the fuel. Please note that for this to be true, there must be no superior substitutes for the fuel. --Flatline 13:56, 16 September 2005 (UTC)
Jevon's Paradox fails when the price of energy is going up since conservation only enables you to keep the bills in place rather than lowering them so you have no additional money from saving energy to spend elsewhere on consuming energy.
Wrong. If you didn't conserve energy, it would become even more expensive. And if you do conserve it, it just makes it cheaper for others to use. Richard001 10:07, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

Link to efficiency in second paragraph[edit]

I've changed the link from efficiency from efficiency (economics) to just plan efficiency, since it's not really economic efficiency we're talking about here, rather the normal sense of being able to get a greater output for a given input. That is, more work for a given amount of fuel. (I wrote the original paragraph, and this is definately the meaning I intended.)

Since this page is also about economics, maybe we need to change the wording a bit so as to avoid any confusion that we could be talking about economic efficiency there?

--Mathish 10:42, 2 March 2006 (UTC)

I'm new to this so please excuse ant breaches of etiquette. I think it would be best to start again with something like the following:

Jevons Paradox

A proposition put forward by the economist William Stanley Jevons in his book 'The Coal Question' (1865). It asserts that greater efficiency in the use of any resource always increases consumption of it. As a hypothesis it is worthless: it explains nothing which cannot be explained fully by generally accepted economic theory and it cannot be tested because it is impossible to specify a time frame within which the increased consumption must take place.

Scepticc 23:22, 14 January 2007 (UTC)scepticc

How about a reference to prove the economic exceptions in the second paragraph? They smack of speculation and an ideological, not objective, agenda. —Preceding unsigned comment added by JoeBjr (talkcontribs) 00:07, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Please do not remove contributions without appropriate discussion[edit]

Jevons Paradox is well understood in Economics. My edits reflect the mainstream economic view on the subject. Additionally, Energy Policy is a respected peer-reviewed academic journal. As such it represents scholarly consensus on a topic, and should not be treated as if it was one person's view cited off the internet. --lk (talk) 18:14, 20 November 2007 (UTC)

You're referring to my edit, I think. But I didn't remove that, or any, reference -- the version just before your revert had the Energy Policy reference. I just moved the reference around. I also added a {{main}} template, reworded some passages, and generally cleaned the article up. The only obvious thing I did to move the article to its earlier form was to change "Theoretical Explanation" to simply Explanation, as the longer section title seemed unnecessary.
I'd appreciate it if you would undo your revert.
CRGreathouse (t | c) 18:40, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
Actually, you reverted most of my edits. Perhaps you were working from an earlier copy? Anyway, let's just move on from where the article stands now. --lk (talk) 18:53, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
I went back to my version. First, I think you'll notice that it has much more in common with your version than the version just before your edits: diff from yours diff from old.

Second, it addresses many problems with your version:

  • Grammar mistakes were fixed, and capitalization was changed to meet Wikipedia standards
  • See also should include only links not otherwise included in the article. I opted to have a {{main}} link to the rebound article rather than a see also -- of course you're welcome to change that if you prefer a see also or a parenthetical rather than a main.
  • The related Greening and Potter articles are mentioned together rather than apart, allowing for easier comparison
  • Some passages were re-worded for easier reading.
CRGreathouse (t | c) 19:18, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
You have once again reverted my edits. I ask you to stop. You stand in danger of breaking the 3 reverts rule. --lk (talk) 19:20, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
I justified my edit, and have now reverted yours twice. I don't like to revert, but I see my version as a strict improvement of yours for the reasons above. I'd be happy to work with you on making a better version yet, but so far you have not shown any willingness to work with me. CRGreathouse (t | c) 19:26, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
You misrepresented your edits. Their main effect was not to clean up language but to revert my contributions. You have broken the 3 reverts rule. I will now re-input my contributions. I ask you to not start an edit war. It it clear from the edits that you are trying to push a view that is not mainstream economics. Please stop now. --lk (talk) 19:33, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
Funny, I was tempted to make the same accusation. I've been watching this article for months, and the same day you made your edits I went to correct the mistakes -- and leave in the good stuff. Didn't you look at the diffs I provided?
Regardless, I did not break WP:3RR, although you can say that I did if you prefer -- no skin off my back. (As I understand it you have yourself broken 3RR, although I won't hold it against you.) I am somewhat more concerned about your assumption that I acted in mala fide, but I suppose that's to be expected.
As I explained, I'm not willing to back down because I feel I have made substantial worthwhile changes in my edits. You apparently don't think so, and that's fine. But I would ask that you expand on one thought. In what way am I "trying to push a view that is not mainstream economics"? Perhaps I missed something in my edit that I should change.
If you aren't willing to work with me to make a better article, this process will be more difficult. I prefer to handle editing nonconfrontationally when possible, even amongst feuding parties -- Kemeny-Young method being my most recent example. But if need be I will continue to repair the article even without you. Better would be to bring in some third-party editors to help out -- surely with more eyes the article would be better, no?
CRGreathouse (t | c) 01:16, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

OK, let's just assume good faith and restart. I'll be specific about my complaints.

  1. You deleted this paragraph that I believe is the meat of the issue. This paragraph represents standard (and pretty basic) economic analysis:
    "However, four points can be raised against this argument. First, in the context of a mature technology such as oil, increased efficiency usually reduces use of the resource, as the associated increase in demand for the good or service produced is small.[1][2] Second, even if increased efficiency does not reduce the total amount of resources used, this ignores the additional benefits associated with increased efficiency and increased use. For example, a more efficient steam engine allowed the cheaper transport of goods and people that contributed to the Industrial Revolution. Third, in the context of peak oil, since oil is a diminishing resource its price will continue to rise. As such, the use of oil will decrease despite any increased efficiencies. Fourth, if one views oil price increases as an adverse effect of peak oil, increased efficiency will slow down the rise in oil prices, thus reducing the problems created by peak oil."
  2. You reverted my correct edits about efficiency having both positive and negative effects on quantity used (this is standard economic terminology), and about the price elasticity of demand being the determining factor on which effect predominates.
  3. Also, it is not really debatable that increased efficiency usually reduces resource use in mature technologies / developed economies. There has been much research on the subject. Your edit that implies that it as just one person's opinion is misleading.
  4. The opinion of author and magazine columnist Andrew Potter should not be presented on an equal basis with accepted fact based on peer-reviewed academic journal articles.

I certainly welcome any edits for readability and logic. However, I would like wikipedia articles to reflect current consensus in the relevant scientific community. Not all views deserve the same weight, see WP:UNDUE. --lk (talk) 06:57, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

For #1, I did not delete that paragraph. I did edit the paragraph, but I think that only the first sentence ("However, four points can be raised...") was missing. The idea that four, and exactly four, points can be raised is WP:OR and unsupported by references. There are probably other points that can be raised as well, and if so that's all the more reason to remove it. I did rephrase the second sentence, as I mentioned in my list: "Lorna Greening argues that the Jevons paradox is rare for mature resources like oil, as the increase in demand associated with greater efficiency is small." I thought the reword, which attributes the thought more directly and avoids the wordiness of "in the context of..." without actually losing the context (in my version, "...for mature resources like oil").
My mistake, on a cursory glance it appeared that my edits had been reverted to the previous version. I will remove the '4 points'. It's left over from a previous editor who had '2 points'. If you can improve the wording further, please do.
For #2, that terminology is not standard. The standard of economics is non-normative analysis, in which facts are considered but judgments on the goodness or badness of a situation are left out. The use of "positive and negative effects" is inappropriate for both non-normative economic texts (the large majority) as well as for an encyclopedia.
Positive and negative here are not normative statements. They mean positive and negative as in 'plus' and 'minus'. I don't really know how to change it to say the same thing without using the words positive and negative. Perhaps use 'increases and decreases', but I don't see how to form a simple sentence like that. The sentence should say that there are two effects that go in opposite directions, one effect increases resource use and another effect decreases resource use. Any suggestions?
For #3 perhaps my wording is poor and you can help me improve it. (This is the kind of thing I'd like to work out with you.) I myself believe that increased efficiency almost always reduces the use of resources -- I think Jevon's paradox is rare, and well-named as a "paradox". But I'm not supposed to write my own opinions into Wikipedia, so I let reliable sources make their own arguments. I'm not sure what you're suggesting, though; I didn't add the Potter reference, and probably would not have included it because it seems like a minority opinion not worth the mention here (though probably worth mentioning at Rebound effect).
"Lorna Greening argues" is inaccurate. It's not her who's of this opinion, she (and her 2 co-authors) just did a survey article summarizing the work of many other researchers. It's pretty accepted in the academic community that increases in efficiency usually reduces resource use in developed markets.
For #4, ditto. I didn't add the article. If you're trying to have the citation removed I won't stop you -- though I generally prefer to leave in a counterargument when it's appropriately supported and written. I couldn't actually tell you that it is -- I haven't read the Potter article.
I'm ok with it as it stands. It does look a bit odd, but someone must have thought it was important enough to put there. I just wanted to put it into context, that it's an unsupported view from someone not trained in economics.
I heartily agree on undue weight. Again, I didn't add the Potter reference and didn't write anything about it (I left the wording on that reference as it was). I did put it adjacent to the Greening reference, because they're talking about the same thing and so should be together. To put it another way: if the two are apart in the article, one could get the wrong impression when reading the Potter/heterodox part without the Greening/orthodox view.
CRGreathouse (t | c) 13:37, 21 November 2007 (UTC)
OK, I guess I over reacted, for that I do apologize. But try to see it from my point of view. I thought I saw my edits reverted, after I spent a couple of hours researching and reading and finally writing them. And then, right after I had asked for discussion first before further action, I saw them reverted again. I'm usually quite good about keeping cool, but it was late at night, and ... well you get my drift. I guess the moral of the story is, 'don't touch that revert button'. --lk (talk) 15:49, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

Hetrodox and reference[edit]

Thanks for the reference, Lawrencekhoo. I recall you mentioned that the Greening reference showed that the Potter article was out of synch with the mainstream, but having not read it I wasn't comfortable adding it as a reference there myself. (There's some guideline on this, and in general it's intellectually shady to use a reference you haven't read.) Thanks.

CRGreathouse (t | c) 17:44, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

If you're interested, you can read the abstract of the paper in the following link. It's a survey article, so a good article to start with. I've also added another reference that's available online. There are a bunch of articles about the rebound effect in journals, but you gotta visit the library to read them. I've seen estimates between about 5% to 75%. Anyway, the Potter hyphothesis is quite obviously wrong. It postulates that the rebound effect is 100%. But why 100% from possible values from 0% to infinity? No real reason is given. --lk (talk) 18:48, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

I've read a fair number of papers on the topic, just not the Greening article. The abstract doesn't really say anything; I'd need to read the methodology section to get anything of value from it. How things are measured has a tremendous effect on what conclusions can be drawn from the research.
Actually I've been thinking about how to add other examples of the Jevons paradox to our article, beyond just energy consumption. One obvious choice would be cotton after the cotton gin in the US. Any thoughts of yours (or anyone's, for that matter) would be welcome.
CRGreathouse (t | c) 23:02, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

Merge with Rebound Effect?[edit]

Discussion is over at the Rebound effect (conservation) talk pages. lk (talk) 08:51, 28 April 2008 (UTC)

Consensus was to keep as is. lk (talk) 06:47, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

Scope of the 'Jevons paradox'[edit]

I need to clarify what exactly this entails. Let's take a simple example of light bulbs. If I get more energy efficient bulbs (though the cost of their production and product lifespan also needs to be taken into account), I use less energy. So it would seem that if everyone installed these new light bulbs, less energy would be consumed. However, because they use less energy, they are also cheaper to use, so people might use lights more than they otherwise would. In this case though, lighting is fairly cheap, so if we use lightbulbs that are twice as efficient we probably won't expect to see twice as much use of light bulbs (maybe a little more, but probably not a big increase). As I understand it, this is the sort of thing that the concept is about. However, would it extend further: we are now spending less on light bulbs, but with the money saved people spend it on something else that consumes energy.

Another conceptually related idea: if I don't use this resource, somebody else will instead (which in reminds me of Hardin's life boat ethics). Do any of these extensions fall under the Jevons paradox blanket? If not, what to call them? Richard001 (talk) 04:31, 26 April 2008 (UTC)

Resources do not just sit there waiting to be used, so the argument 'if i don't use it someone else will' does not make sense. Let me try and clarify. It is costly to extract resources, so the relevant question is whether an improvement in technology will reduce or increase the price at which a resource trades. If it increases the price (from more demand) then more will be extracted , if the price of the resource falls, then less will be extracted and hence more is conserved. It all depends on whether improvements in technology increase or decrease demand for a resource. And this depends on the price elasticity of demand for the good, and other conflating factors. lk (talk) 09:26, 28 April 2008 (UTC)
The argument 'if I don't use it somebody else will' makes perfectly good sense (and is related to the idea 'if I don't spend my money on X, I'll spend it on Y, so it will make little difference in terms of conservation of resources'). If I don't use a certain resource, it's not going to fly away. It will be there for someone else to use, and they will use it. If I had have used it, it wouldn't be there for them. But either way, it ends up being used, so one can argue 'if I don't do something, somebody else will do it'. [It's easy to confuse fact with value (value as in ethics, not economic value) in a case like this too; take my statements as matters of fact (i.e. not 'therefore, I ought to consume this resource'). If you think one implies the other, try something like 'if I don't take part in the gang rape of this woman, one of the other guys will, so what difference does it make?]
In terms of the money case (i.e. taking the broadest view), the only ways to avoid the rebound effect is if people spend less money as a result of things being cheaper, i.e. they work less, or they spend it on something that uses less resources (possibly spending the extra money on organic food rather than on more unsustainably produced food?). Actually, I'm not even sure on that one. I'm finding this one difficult to fully get my head around. Richard001 (talk) 09:53, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

Richard, you are conflating 2 issues. We should discuss only one at a time. First, the Jevons Paradox, has to do with the rebound effect being larger than 1, so that advances in efficiency lead to more resource use. If this happens, the price at which the resource trades at will go up. Otherwise, more effort will not be put into extracting a resource. Only if improved efficiency causes resource prices to rise, will more be extracted and used. Second, you are also making a type of system wide argument, that somehow in the whole system, everyone together must always use the same amount of resources no matter what happens to technology. There are many problems with such an argument. Suffice to say that in no economics textbook is such a principle mentioned. And so, it would be inappropriate to state as such in a wikipedia article. Full disclosure, I'm an econ prof., so you know where I'm coming from. I'm wary of discussing this further on the talk page. If you really want to pursue this, perhaps we can converse on our respective talk pages. lk (talk) 06:53, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

I was wrong. There is a system-wide macro argument about the effect of efficiency on energy use. Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate argues that improved energy efficiency tends to increase economic growth which in turn increases energy use. Note that this is only valid for energy use, as improved efficiency for any other resource will have negligible effects on economic growth. I've edited this article to include the Khazzoom-Brookes Postulate. lk (talk) 13:51, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

Why does 'this' only apply to energy use? US economists are constantly going on about (usually) falling labor productivity and its effect on output. This is not an exact parallel because 'labor' productivity is simply total output divided by labour input, but there seems no reason to say that the principle is not valid for other resources. Jevons specifically argued that his effect applied to the labor of downtrodden and exploited seamstresses, contrary to the general opinion of his time.

Scepticc —Preceding unsigned comment added by Scepticc (talkcontribs) 08:43, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

You are right in that Jevons paradox can occur in any industry. However, keep in mind that there are two forces driving it (unfortunately Jevons conflated both effects in his analysis.) 1) rebound effect, lower prices increase use. 2) at the economy-wide level, higher economic growth increases use. You will see the rebound effect in all markets. But energy is one of the few industries where improved technology can significantly drive economic growth. You're unlikely to see the second effect if there is improved technology in cheese making, cheaper cheese would not increase economic growth significantly.
I'm going to substantially revise your edits. I'm trying to the best of my ability to reflect the mainstream economics viewpoint in this article. I understand that you have a different point of view, but statements like "That is the thesis, but the argument is by no means watertight." do not belong in an encyclopedia article. If you disagree, make the argument, and back it up with citations.

lk (talk) 19:26, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

But what do you take the 'mainstream' view to be? It seems to me that the Jevons paradox and K-B postulate are ignored or rejected de facto since public agencies act as if increasing energy efficiency will reduce energy consumption. Have you ever published a view on this in the peer-reviewed literature?

Regarding your argument that fuel isn't cheese, both Jevons and Brookes argued that the Jevons effect applied to labor. I believe that an encyclopedia article should present the issues to the non-specialist reader. There is a problem with the JP and KBP because there is no substantial literature which comprehensively argues the converse. The UKERC recently published a report which set out to examine the issues but ultimately ducked out of reaching a conclusion. Perhaps in these circumstances one cannot do better here than indicate that the JP is a matter of opinion without good evidence. By the way, I hesitated to edit the reference in the article to James Watt but it is a very condensed (to put it politely) account of Jevons' thinking. (talk) 08:24, 21 June 2008 (UTC) Scepticc

Labour would be another resource where increased efficiency would effect growth rates. But argument would not apply to many other resources, e,g, cheese, wood, aluminium, etc. When presenting the 'mainstream' view, I believe that we should give preference to conclusions from academic peer-reviewed journals. Government reports should also hold (less) weight. Reports from NGO's would be least credible. My own reading of the literature is that the rebound effect is in most (but not all) circumstances less than 100%, but that the KBP probably holds because of growth effects. Although the literature there is sparse. However, afaik, the is no credible refutation of Harry Saunders' paper. lk (talk) 03:43, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

On further thought I offer the following (cross-references not yet added) as a substitute for the present entry. "Jevons Paradox

The Jevons Paradox (sometimes called the Jevons Effect) is the proposition put forward by W S Jevons in his book "The Coal Question" (1865) that greater efficiency in the use of coal necessarily increases rather decreases its consumption. He attributed this result principally to the increase in demand for products which would result from a fall in their production cost. He offered analogies such as the increase in traffic on toll roads when the tolls were reduced or the increase in yield of an excise duty when its rate was lowered. Nowadays we would apply the concept of the Laffer curve to such situations, recognising that there is some rate of toll or duty which will maximise revenue but that whether revenue rises or falls if the rate is reduced depends on its initial value. Jevons also claimed that seamstresses had not lost income when their efficiency had been raised by the introduction of sewing machines, though the point of relevance to the coal-efficiency question is whether the quantity of labour employed in sewing was increased or decreased. Jevons saw the increased efficiency of steam engines as being likely to extend their fields of application. He also attributed the large increase in Scottish pig-iron output after 1830 to the reduction in coal consumption per ton made possible by the use of the hot blast in smelting.

Jevons was writing at the end of a period of around 30 years during which UK coal consumption had risen faster in percentage terms than it had ever done before or was ever to do again. The editor of the 3rd edition of "The Coal Question" added a footnote which showed that over the period 1869-1903 coal consumption by the UK iron and steel industry fell substantially despite a large increase in output. Thus Jevons was perhaps unduly influenced by the circumstances of his time. He was also writing before Alfred Marshall produced (in the 1890s) the model of supply, demand and prices which forms the basis of today's microeconomics.

The Jevons Paradox continues to find advocates, particularly among environmental economists. A related proposition is the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate, which applies to all energy rather than to coal. Both are implicitly rejected by governments and public agencies around the world that promote energy efficiency as a means of reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions." (talk) 17:24, 22 June 2008 (UTC) Scepticc

I hope you don't suggest replacing the whole article. The introduction to the article can certainly be rewritten along the lines you propose, although Jevons believed that the paradox applied to more than coal, including the use of iron and other resources. Also, a close reading of The Coal Question shows that Jevons was also thinking about the effect of economic growth. Lastly, I think the examples about toll roads and seamstresses are unnecessary, and should best be moved to the article on The Coal Question, which strangely enough currently lacks a section on Jevons Paradox. --lk (talk) 06:47, 23 June 2008 (UTC)

My intention was to replace the whole article. The examples of roads and seamstresses were put forward by Jevons as confirming evidence for his argument. They are fundamental to it and irrelevant to the broader "Coal Question". I don't think Jevons says anywhere that his "paradox" applies to iron. Rather, increased iron production - according to him - increases coal consumption, though he is not very convincing on this. but do you have a reference? Scepticc Scepticc (talk) 21:55, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

Lets just clarify some facts that I hope we can agree on. 1) We are talking about the effect of technological progress on energy use. 2) It is possible, and has been observed that the rebound effect is sometimes larger than 100%. 3) The effect of lower energy prices on growth is positive and significant. 4) Jevons paradox (technological progress in energy efficiency leading to more energy use) has been observed to occur; this doesn't mean that it always occurs, but it is a real situation that has occured before and may occur again.
I encourage you to rewrite the introduction to the article along the lines you propose, but I would object to deletion of other material. lk (talk) 08:00, 9 July 2008 (UTC)

1) The Jevons paradox as discussed by WSJ relates to both coal and labor. But he also assumes that the price elasticity of demand for all sorts of things is > 1 and is happy to argue from that to the much more extreme proposition that reducing the cost of any good or service made using coal will increase demand for that good or service enough to increase the toral consumption of coal. He assumes this despite the fact that it implies a redistribution of consumer expenditure with reduced purchases of other goods and services whose production would also have required energy. Even without Marshall's later insights the JP is therefore a priori dubious. 2)& 4)(I don't understand the difference) If it is only occasionally observed that rebound is greater than 100% then we are ex hypothesi not talking about a general principle worthy of special attention. But I'd be grateful if you could give me some examples - and not the effect of the hot blast on Scottish pig-iron production, which is quite irrelevant, or the cashmere (sometimes ignorantly 'Kashmir') effect. 3) The effect of lower energy prices on growth is likely to be significant but WSJ himself ignored the effect of lower coal prices on demand and in particular the effect of the railways in reducing prices outside the coalfields. But then he didn't have much to say about the effect of the railways on growth anyway. I think there may be a need for a more radical rethink about what should be under "JP" and what under WSJ himself but I'll try to find time to do a proper job soon. scepticc Scepticc (talk) 11:20, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

Economic thought evolves and changes. One shouldn't be too wedded to what was said or understood by Jevons himself. Rather, my understanding of the current usage of Jevons Paradox is that it concerns question, "Do improvements in technology that lead to more efficient energy use paradoxically increase the rate at which energy resources are used?" Answer is obviously yes if the rebound effect is > 100%, but even if rebound is < 100%, answer would still be yes if effect of lower energy prices on growth is significant. That is what distinguishes point 2) from 4) above. Feel free to edit as you see fit what Jevons did or did not understand. However, as I read it, current economic thought is that it is probable that in most circumstances, improvements in technology that lead to more efficient energy use paradoxically increase the rate at which energy resources are used. And I would like the page to reflect this. lk (talk) 17:19, 20 July 2008 (UTC)
Also, a clarification, the existence of Jevons Paradox does not contradict the use of mandates to improve energy efficiency. Suppose that there are two existing methods to produce, and method A is more expensive but uses less energy, whereas method B is less expensive but uses more energy. A government mandate that requires the use of A would improve energy efficiency, as A would not have been chosen by the market as it is more expensive to use. The point of Jevons Paradox is that if, without government intervention, the technology improves until the cost of using A is cheaper than B, and the market chooses A, in the long run, the effect of this technological progress may be to increase resource use. lk (talk) 17:43, 20 July 2008 (UTC)
I mostly agree. Certainly Jevons' paradox should not be construed as an argument against efficiency improvements. But it's worth noting that Jevons' paradox does not require further improvements to technology (beyond the initial efficiency improvements). If present, they feed into the effect, but they're not required. CRGreathouse (t | c) 18:11, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

Confusing graphs[edit]

I looked at this for about an hour before realizing what it was actually supposed to say. The graphs are not clearly written. It is not clear whether they are referring to the price and quantity of the fuel or of the [i]work which the fuel is used to perform[/i]. This is because both words appear in the graph and the axis are unlabeled. The way the graphs are currently written imply that fuel consumption will increase for any increase in efficiency.

I believe the graphs should be remade with the labels such as "Quantity of work demanded less than doubles". Do you agree? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:26, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

POV Tag[edit]

Can we list out the POV problems of the article? In which direction is it slanted? Which sections have problems? LK (talk) 02:34, 19 September 2009 (UTC)

I agree with this comment.  If we cannot explain on the talk page the reason for a large warning banner on the main article page, we should remove the warning. Even just discussion of the issues would suffice. —fudoreaper (talk) 05:54, 20 September 2009 (UTC)
I third the request. CRGreathouse (t | c) 18:12, 20 September 2009 (UTC)
LK has removed the tag. I had notified the IP user via (his|her) Talk page, but received no response.
I have no objections to the tag being restored, provided that a clear explanation of the reason is given here so that the problems (if any!) can be addressed.
CRGreathouse (t | c) 18:07, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

Current Event November 2009[edit]

The Jevons Paradox is mentioned in this recent discussion: The discussion is associated with a paper in the journal Climatic Change described here: The full text of the paper is available here: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:58, 29 November 2009 (UTC)

Add link to Economics of global warming ?[edit]

Add link to Economics of global warming ? (talk) 06:57, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Was fuel efficiency really the main factor in the increased coal consumption?[edit]

1) Atmospheric steam engines were employed allmost exclusively in stationary applications. Their efficiency increased with size. This made them unsuitable for driving vehicles - trains and ships- since in these applications the weight of the engine and the weight of fuel store is crucial. Watt´s engine lead not only to more use of steam engines in already existing applications but enabled the steam engine to be used in applications which would not be possible with atmospheric engine not only for price reasons but also for weight reasons. For the same reason of weight of fuel and engine later steam engine was found unsuitable for aviaton.

2) Coal was increasingly used in the 19th century for purposes other than as a fuel for engines - heating, gas for lighting, iron production etc. --Georgius (talk) 09:01, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

====basic situational logic====

If you describe a consumption/manufacturing situation as a function of time and then go on to say that a reduction in the price of the consumption cost is a good idea for the situation at that point in time; and was Henry Ford's goal in the manufacture of automobiles, "so that everybody could afford one". But the idea that decreased cost automatically results in increased consumption does not logically derive from the considered situation, but rather from the dynamics of the ensuing time period. And we can argue that there ought to be cheap medicines to cure specific illnesses, so that neither the illnesses nor the medicine will be needed in the future.WFPM (talk) 20:03, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

Graph text in error.[edit]

The graph showing the consequences under "inelastic demand" STILL shows increased consumption, just lesser increase than under "elastic demand". That use does not double with halving of price does not mean that use hasn't increased! The total area under the curve has, however, gone down, which means that less $$ is SPENT overall. The Jevons Paradox does not say that more will be spent, only that more will be used. E.g.; Say the electricity demand in a particular area is 1 Meg-hour per month (10^3 = 1,000 kwh), when the cost is 10¢/kwh. That means $10^2 = $100 is spent on power each month. A pocket fission plant is installed in the neighborhood, and sells power at 1¢/kwh. Demand (we'll postulate) doubles, so 2 Mwh = 2,000 kwh is used, now costing just $20. So the expenditure has dropped, but USAGE has still increased (doubled). Which is all that Jevons predicts. So the caption and explanation of the second graph is wrong. —Preceding unsigned comment added by BrianFH (talkcontribs) 18:34, 22 November 2010 (UTC)

I think the horizontal axis of the graph is showing the demand for work, not the demand for energy. If energy efficiency doubles (and price remains unchanged), that also means that the cost per unit of work halves. If, in the inelastic demand graph, the quantity demanded of work less than doubles, that means the the quantity demanded of energy falls, since you'd have to double the demand for work to use the same amount of energy. CRETOG8(t/c) 02:21, 23 November 2010 (UTC)
I've a feeling that BrianFH is not the first to have been confused over this. Any suggestions for how to change the graph and/or the wording so that it's less confusing? I still have the originals somewhere and can change as needed. Thanks, LK (talk) 07:27, 23 November 2010 (UTC)

Unattributed Argument[edit]

The Jevons paradox has been used to argue that energy conservation is futile, as increased efficiency may actually increase fuel use.

Really? By who? Jevons paradox in no way shows that energy conservation is futile, it shows that increasing efficiency may not lead to increased conservation. It shows that increasing energy efficiency and technological advances may be futile, not all energy conservation. Unless this can be sourced, it should be changed and/or removed. --Calibas (talk) 17:48, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

Personally, I'd be happy to see that sentence go away because WP:IDONTLIKEIT. But it's supported by many of the sources in the article -- Strassel, for one, and of course Potter. A quick Google search turns up (amongst dozens of others) Owens 2011, probably the best source you'll find from this year so far. CRGreathouse (t | c) 18:55, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

Staying on topic[edit]

It seems to me that an article about the Jevons paradox ought to be confined to describing the Jevons paradox. This article continues from there to a discussion of climate change policy. Shouldn't that discussion be more properly put in some article about climate change policy? Plaasjaapie (talk) 04:43, 26 May 2011 (UTC)

Feedback and suggestions[edit]

This article provides good coverage from an economic and historical point of view. But there is some confusion about whether the JP applies to energy conservation or energy efficiency, or both. Moreover, the views of non-economists, such as Amory Lovins and his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute, (eg, [1]) need to be more prominent. And the recent article in Nature needs to be discussed (see [2]). These sources suggest that the rebound effect has been overestimated in the past. Thanks. Johnfos (talk) 06:06, 15 February 2013 (UTC)

So I'm adding an Update tag... Johnfos (talk) 09:15, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
This is first and foremost an economic issue. Views of non-economists are tangential at best. Also, there is no confusion in economics, the paradox applies only to technological improvements that increase technical efficiency. LK (talk) 04:37, 14 March 2013 (UTC)
LK (talk), I respectfully disagree with you. It is an economic and technological issue as well as a social and behavioral one. A sea of studies in behavioral economics, psychology, and sociology make this point, to see just one massive review of hundreds of peer-reviewed studies find a copy of this or contact me and I can email you a PDF. Also see some of my comments on Rebound effect (conservation) for references that undercut the legitimacy of the rebound effect. Bksovacool (talk) 09:00, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
Sorry for the delay in replying, and my far to brusque earlier reply. You are correct of course that the sources and opinions here should not be restricted to those from economists. Perhaps the section on Energy conservation policy should be expanded? Also, having read through "Social and Behavioral Aspects of Energy use"[3] and the recent paper in Natrure,[4] I am convinced that they deserves a prominent place in the article and that some parts of the article should be rewritten accordingly. Perhaps following the discussion of Harry Saunders's paper in the section on the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate as well as some discussion in the lead? Anyway, if anyone wants to go ahead and make those changes, I'll support as time permits. Best, LK (talk) 05:04, 28 November 2013 (UTC)
LK, thanks for taking a closer look. Yes, please do expand the section on the Jevons paradox, I would be happy to help, if somebody else took the lead.Bksovacool (talk) 18:53, 1 December 2013 (UTC)

'Unbalanced' tag[edit]

An unbalanced tag was put on this article last month, but there is no discussion or followup on what is unbalanced or how to improve it. I invite those who believe the article is unbalanced to state their viewpoint, and propose suggestions. If there is no active discussion on improvement, the tag may be removed. LK (talk) 06:03, 7 May 2015 (UTC)

The article places heavy emphasis on disputing the potentially incorrect application of the Jevons Paradox (regarding energy conservation), with at least half of the article dedicated to the very argument. It was written as though someone (potentially one very interested in the concept of sustainable development and technological optimism) was frustrated at an individual's use of the Jevons Paradox regarding energy conservation policy, and resorted to flooding the article with rebuffs against this argument. While this viewpoint certainly as every right to be demonstrated in the article, I believe far too much emphasis was placed on it and needs to be addressed. I cannot do this alone however, and I would like to hear others' views on the subject as well before beginning to overhaul the article. P.S. Apologies for the very late response on my part. I'm asking that we keep the Unbalanced tag until this problem is resolved. Temeku (talk) 07:53, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
As an economist, according to my reading of the literature, the views in the article reflect current scholarship on the issue. What is written in the article is backed by several reliable sources. Could you kindly point out exactly which paragraphs you object to, as I'm not sure what you mean by "heavy emphasis on disputing the potentially incorrect application of the Jevons Paradox".
If you have an alternative point of view, kindly express it clearly and point to some reliable sources that back it up. I would object to an unbalanced tag if it's just one editor's 'I don't like it' opinion. LK (talk) 09:05, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
The extra emphasis on the energy conservation policy argument is noticed in the introduction to the article, which is simply too long, particularly the paragraph that begins with "The Jevons paradox has been used to argue that energy conservation may be futile, (...)" and should be re-worded. The Energy Conservation Policy section should be scaled down also - not that I disagree with it, nor do I question the reliability and accuracy its sources - but is given more attention than the rest of the article by having it repeatedly referenced in the article's introduction as well, and is also the longest section of the article. Other discussions above on the article's Talk Page such as "Unattributed argument", "Staying on topic" and most of "Scope of the 'Jevons Paradox'" also highlight this problem. I am not asking that content be added, but the Energy Conservation Policy scaled down (or possibly moved to a Climate Change politics-related article) and the introduction be shortened and reworded. These problems are inconsistent with the article's Good Article status as well. Temeku (talk) 00:13, 31 May 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── If the only issue is the weight in the lead, then I believe we can come to consensus. I have edited the lead to reduce the size of the last paragraph, and apportion weight in the lead so that it better reflects weight in the article. I would note that the size of the lead is appropriate and follows the guidelines in WP:LEADLENGTH.

If the argument is about how much weight conservation policy should have in this article, I would invite you to do a search for "Jevons paradox", on google news, google books and google scholar, and consider the percentage of articles that also discuss energy conservation policy. If anything, this article has less weight on energy conservation policy than exists in reliable sources. Also, if you are interested in improving this article, I suggest that you read some academic sources on the Jevons paradox, I suggest the survey article :

and the academic reference book:

  • JM Polimeni, K Mayumi, M Giampietro, ed. (2008). The Jevons Paradox and the Myth of Resource Efficiency Improvements. Earthscan. ISBN 1-84407-462-5. </ref>

Those sources extensively discuss the relevance of Jevons paradox to energy conservation policy. If we have no other arguments, I would request that you withdraw your request to reassess at GA. LK (talk) 02:23, 1 June 2015 (UTC)