There is a story in the Sunday, January 25, 2009 issue of the Washington Post that is contains one of the best illustrations of the Jevons Paradox that I have seen in a while. (From the Wikipedia entry – “In economics, the Jevons Paradox (sometimes called the Jevons effect) is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.”) The story is all about energy efficiency programs mandated by local governments including Maryland and Virginia:
No, you’re not going to invite all the neighbors over to show off your insulation,” said Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “But the savings can be considerable.”
D.C. resident Elizabeth Fox said she was thrilled to take advantage of an existing city program to get a lengthy, free audit of her 100-year-old leaky home in Northwest after she received a flier in the mail. “We got a written report we kept referring back to” while renovating the home’s third floor, she said. She added new insulation and a super-efficient washer, dryer and hot-water heater, and air conditioner. Her heating bill last month was well over $500, “so I can’t say we’ve stopped the leaky air,” she said. But with the third floor in use for the first time, “Our energy bills have stayed the same, so that’s a savings.”
So, Amory Lovins and Joe Romm, tell me again how we are going to solve our energy supply issues by energy efficiency alone? Also, since a 100 year old home in Northwest DC that is undergoing a 3rd story renovation is probably a million dollar plus asset, why should all ratepayers be subsidizing the project by providing “lengthy” (aka costly) free audits?