180. JEVONS PARADOX REFUTED
Jevons Paradox states that conservation of fuel leads (paradoxically) to increased consumption of fuel. The idea is simple: if large numbers of people begin conserving fuel, this will lower the price of that fuel, and that will stimulate increased consumption.
Certainly Jevons Paradox is true in many cases. Here's an example noted by Jevons himself:
In his 1865 book The Coal Question Jevons observed that England's consumption of coal soared after James Watt introduced his coal-fired steam engine, which greatly improved the efficiency of Thomas Newcomen's earlier design. Watt's innovations made coal a more cost effective power source, leading to increased use of his steam engine in a wide range of industries. This in turn made total coal consumption rise, even as the amount of coal required for any particular application fell.SourceFor the sake of argument, let's assume that Jevons Paradox is true of gasoline. How does this apply to peak oil?
Well... the doomers love Jevons Paradox. For them it is, above all, a reason not to conserve (or a reason why conservation "won't help"). After all, why should anybody conserve gasoline? If they do so, it will (by Jevons Paradox) just cause consumption of gasoline to increase.
Now, we may not be able to refute Jevons Paradox as an empirical fact, but we certainly can refute the way doomers are using it. We can do it with a single example:
In a vast parking lot ruled by cars and low-slung superstores, Stacey Harper delivers the unlikeliest of travel alternatives: mass transit.As you can see, Ms. Harper is making $160 to $180 a month by conserving gasoline, so let's see what happens after a doomer explains Jevons Paradox to her:
The 41-year-old nurse wheels a white minivan into a rain-dappled parking spot to pick up a couple more co-workers. It is 6 a.m. on a Wednesday in South Hill, and Harper is driving a van pool to work at Western State Hospital.
A year ago, Harper thought nothing of driving 36 miles from home to work alone. That was before the price of a gallon of gasoline began its steady march upward, ultimately costing her $180 to $200 per month.
"It was going up not by pennies," Harper says, "but by dollars."
Harper, the South Hill resident, decided to leave her car for a van pool – much to her own surprise.
"I was really resistant to it," she says. "It was going to be a big hassle."
Prices at the pump changed her mind.
She got on a waiting list for a van pool offered by Pierce Transit. She took a driving course. Now she pays $22 a month to van-pool as opposed to the $180 to $200 a month she paid to commute alone.
Even if the price of gas drops below $2, she says, she's not going back.
Part of her reasoning is that she likes to shed the day's stress by talking with her co-workers during the ride home. Part of it is helping the environment by taking a few more cars off the road.
And there's another reason. A big one. "I have extra money," she says. Source
Doomer: Now... don't you see that your conservation will only increase consumption of gasoline?
Ms. Harper: Who cares? I'm making money. Why should I care about your stupid paradox? Will you pay me if I believe in it?
This also blows a hole in another bit of doomer hype -- i.e. that increasing gasoline prices will leave people with less disposable income, which will cause an economic slump because people will have to buy gas with money they would usually spend on other doodads. As you can see, Ms. Harper has reduced her commuting fuel costs by almost 90%, and thus has more disposable income with high gas prices than she did with low gas prices. She has more money than ever before to buy doodads.
-- by JD