free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 180. JEVONS PARADOX REFUTED

Thursday, December 01, 2005


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.Source
For 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.

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
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:

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?
Doomer: ....

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


At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 5:50:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doomers like this one two ways:

1st: Conservation costs jobs, so you cannot conserve as someone is losing out – although they fail to appreciate that the money is merely spend with some other lucky devil, expanding other sectors which may or may not be more energy efficient.

2nd Conservation creates more demand elsewhere because the price is lowered and somewhere else takes up the slack - which is really contradicting their first excuse.

The reality is IT DEPENDS

Jevon was convinced England would run out of coal and the whole of industrialisation would come crashing down. As it happened, the demand for coal made it economical to mine more. In the end coal was imported and eventually substituted as a transport fuel by oil, for street lighting by electricity (powered form many sources) and for heating by natural gas instead of town gas.

The demand for coal did rise, but not really because coal was cheap, although cheap coal allowed industry to carry on with increased industrialisation - although there were severe price rises in the 20th century. Really it was more a question of expanding orders for ships and finished goods. England at this time was ‘the workshop of the world’ and had a large empire which was being equipped for the modern world.

In the transport sector the railway companies had cut-throat competition. They built bigger engines, especially from 1870 onwards, which used more coal, but were more efficient. This allowed to the compete on high-speed runs to the north and west as well as hauling heaving coal trains without the need for banking locomotives, meaning less crews, less engines and line capacity – more pay outs for shareholders. Small engines stalling on heavy gradients had caused crashes in the late part of the 19th Century and the directors of the companies involved were heavily criticised. In short, damn all to do with Jevon’s paradox, more trying to keep in business and complete orders. JP is an economic theory, and conveniently one of the few Doomers accept.

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 8:31:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Really what Jevons Paradox is saying is that demand will expand to use all available supply. This is common sense - you can't expect oil companies to pour their oil down the drain because people don't want to use it. But it doesn't prove conservation is bad, it just says that it makes no difference because someone else will take up the slack.

Jevons Paradox also breaks down the moment there is a shortage, because a shortage forces conservation whether you like it or not.

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 8:48:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doodads take energy to make you idiot. The energy that would have been used to power her car will be used to drive up the demand for doodads.

Money she deposits in the bank will be loaned out to others to start doodad businesses.

Again, clueless as ever this blog is.

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 9:25:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another Doomer quote that JD forgot to metion/debunk was just illustrated by the previous anonymous poster....

"to conserve oil would only lead to other spending on products made from oil so you don't save anything at all"

Now if this isn't one of the stupidest concepts ever, I don't know what is (actually it is right up their with EROEI). The amount of fuel saved could never be equally spent on "doodads"

Take the example in JD blog post. the person was able to go from spending $200 a month on gas to around $25. At $2 a gallon, this person is not buring 87.5 gallons of gas a month.

Please name me one "doodad" that exists that you can buy for $175 or less that burns through 87.5 gallons of gas to produce.

To buy a new computer, they would have to save about a year (to get a get a good one). In that year, they have not burnt 1,050 gallons of gas due to conservation. Assuming it takes 10 times the weight of the computer in fuel to make that computer (as per LATOC) and the average computer weighs about 20 lbs and a fuel weighs about 6.7 lbs per gallon, it takes all of 3 gallons of fuel to create that one computer. In that year, we have conserved 1,050 gallons of gas by carpooling and only burnt 3 gallons because of it.

Now imagine this on a national level. Assume everybody buys a hyrbid in the next 20 years and we save reduce our fuel demand by 60%. Are we going to spend every drop of that 60% of fuel on these doodads? I doubt it very much.

Jevons Paradox is just another tool used by doomers to convince any idiot out there that won't take the 10 seconds to think about it with open eyes that it is pure B.S.

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 9:47:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, I screwed up my math. That new computer would cost 30 gallons of fossil fuel to produce so we are only saving 1020 gallons of fuel by carpooling in this example.

Very sorry for the error - I guess this means the Doomers were right, conservation will lead to increased spending that will burn every drop of fuel we saved - NOT!!!!!

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 10:01:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Hybrids.....

I did some more math along thoses lines.

Lets assume that a hybrid car gets about 10 MPG better efficency.

From LATOC, each new car required the "equivalent" of 27-54 barrels of oil or about 1100-2000 gallons of gas. We will ignore the obvious "equivalant" EROEI error in this (the energy to make a car is not 100% fossil fuel) but will go with the worse case scenerio.....

From LATOC, it take 2000 gallons of gas to make a car (not for real, but what LATOC would like for you to believe if you don't take those 10 seconds to think with the Peak Oil blinders off). The average person drives about 12,000 miles per year.

So by getting the low estimate of 10 MPG better mileage with a hybrid you will save about 1200 gallons of gas per year. The hybrid will save all of the "fuel" it took to create it in just under 2 years (20 months).

Being that the average car lasts for about 20 years (again from LATOC) over it's entire life, the hybrid will save 18,000 gallons of gas.

If we want to throw cost into it (begin as Jevon's paradox says we will spend this month on other items) - hybrids cost more money that your typical car does so that extra money we save from not burning all that gas will go toward the higher car payment (and maybe that new computer ever year too).

Again, to say that conservation will not save fuel it to think with your head inserted cleanly in your arrss.

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 10:04:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops again, I ment the average car lasts about 15 years as per the LATOC (not 20) - the 18,000 gallons saves is based on 15 years. I really need to start proofreading these posts before I hit publish.

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 10:29:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, one last post, and then I am off to bed.

Now that I brought up “money” with regards to that new hybrid, I was wondering how much money we would save each month on gas to reinvest in other “doodads.”

On average, each person drives about 1000 miles per month. Based on this and gas being about $2 a gallon, we get the following:

1) At 20 MPG, we would spend about $100 a month on gas
2) At 25 MPG, we would spend about $80 a month on gas
3) At 30 MPG, we would spend about $67 a month on gas
4) At 40 MPG, we would spend about $50 a month on gas
5) At 100 MPG, we would spend about $20 a month on gas

So by trading in a gas guzzling vehicle that gets 20 MPG for one that gets 40 MPG, we would save a whooping $50 a month or $600 a year. Not a lot of money to reinvest (actually it would probably just go to pay the higher car payment for they hybrid). But on the other hand, how much gas did we save over the 15 year life of that vehicle? A Shit load (even after you factor in how much “energy” it took to build that hybrid).

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 10:59:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so it is like 2am here and this is why you should not drink and post at the same time. I will post my error so some doomer doesn't come along and say "you can't get it right so why should be listen to you."

I screwed up my math when I came up with 18,000 gallons saved over 15 years. I divided 12,000 miles per year by 10 MPG and came up with 1200 gallons but this is in error. Improving gas mileage from 20MPG to 40MPG would save about 300 gallons of gas a year or 4500 gallons over 15 years.

Still, even if a car truly took 2000 gallons of fuel (from LATOC) you are still saving 2500 gallons of gas from that one car over 15 years (of course it is more than this because LATOC quotes the "equivalent" energy required to make a car which is actually made with energy not only from fossil fuel, but electricity, natural gas, coal, etc. which is all figured in to give you an "equivalent").

Now multiply that by the 800 million vehilces on the road (800 x 2500 gallons) and we would save two trillion gallons of gas over 15 years. Keep in mind too, this is after you take out the "equivelant" fossil fuel required to manufature those hybrid vehicles.

So whether that hybrid saves 18,000 gallons of gas over 15 years or 4500 , you still save fuel and if you factor in the $50 a month saved on buying fuel, you don't have a lot of money to buy "Doodads."

Now, Doomers, try your hardest to ignore my errors that I have fessed up to and corrected and focus on the fact that conservation will not result in spending more energy and thus not saving anything argument that as illustrated in my posts.

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 11:06:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flow, gas prices are sure to be back in the $3 range soon which would make a significant difference:

20 MPG = $150
40 MPG = $75
100 MPG = $30

suddenly we're saving $75/mo or $900/year

and when gas hits $5

20 MPG = $250
40 MPG = $125
100 MPG = $50

$125/mo or $1500/year

besides, the most important thing to consider is the mindset of the consumers. that's why i'm bummed about the prices going down to levels lower than last year around this time.

1. we weren't in gas crunch mode long enough
2. the prices will go up again and people will just say: "oh they'll be back down again" which will delay action

i closely know 4 people with gas guzzlers (<20mpg) and all 4 sold their guzzlers. 1 bought a motorcycle (45mpg), 2 bought a much more efficient vehicles (1 got a prius, the other a 36mpg something or other), and a 3rd entered the car share program in SF. but these folks had the money and opportunity to make the switch.

there's a very important psychological element to the conservation game and it's largely ignored in favor of mathematical calculations.

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 11:16:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's say you combine multiple forms of conservation, lets say you rent a plug in hybrid van and vanpool with it, with vanpooling, without even thinking about it, you do more each trip instead of going out 50 times to get 50 things you go out 1 time to get those 50 things. You have just combined 3 forms of conservation relatively pain free.

There is no magic bullet to peak oil folks, we'll have to work hard and make lifestyle sacrifices, but as JD put it, peak oil isn't a problem to survival, we just have to give up some frivilous lifestyle bullshit.

Even in the absolute worse case oil decline scenario survival still seems pretty realistic, the United States (I would wager) spends a good 3/4 of it's energy on "lifestyle bullshit", and wastes more food than most countries consume!!

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 11:30:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK Popmonkey, lets go with your example....

Assuming $5 a gallon & 1000 miles per month driven per month:

At 20 MPG, you are buying about 50 gallons of fuel per month.

At 100 MPG, you are buying about 10 gallons of fuel per month.

You are saving about $200 a month on gas by conserving.

Now, please name one product that you can buy for $200 or less that required 40 gallons of fuel to produce and I will believe how Jevon's paradox really applies to oil and gas.

Even if that person put that money in savings and it was loaned out by the bank at a rate of 6 to 12 times (LATOC again) to make new doodads, it is not going to use as much fossil fuel to produce as is saved unless of course you are using energy "equivalents" again and saying all the energy required to build that new plant to build that new doondad is in fossil fuel (again, ignoring the electrical and natural gas energy input in that equation and just calling it fossil fuel equivalent).

At Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 11:35:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about how much we waste and how lifestyles are going to have to change in a post-peak oil economy (whenever that may be).

I just don't believe in the "we are all going to die unless you head for the woods and grow your own food B.S." that most Doomers put out there along with Peak Oil.

It just is not going to happen that way - sorry. There will always be an upper class that has money to invest in whatever can make them richer (i.e. new forms of energy that will replace fossil fuels = cha-ching if you hit it right).

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 12:01:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to carpool when I was living 92 km away from work. The four of us in a Ford Diesel.

Then I moved. Now I don't car pool anymore. I also switched to a regular petrol car (lower road tax than diesel, but gas is more expensive than diesel)

Gas bill is about the same.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 12:09:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is another thing I don't get.

Why does everybody think a hybrid is so good?

A hybrid is only good if you do a lot of city traffic. It looses out on the highway, against a small diesel engine.

I used to drive a peugeot 102 diesel. It uses about 22 liter / km, or 55 mpg. Always, highway or city. Well, city is a little bit less.

I admit, this is a very small car. But you don't need new & expensive technology.

When gas prices will go up, better is to take the bike. Or the bus.

Americans don't like bikes or busses. Because it's un-american. But that will change. When gas is 6 US$/gallon (as it is here in Europe), people will change their minds. And all of a sudden, riding a bike is no more un-american.

I propose a stiff tax on gas.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 12:34:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

peep these charts to see why your ideas are bullshit:

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 12:36:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, cause making that 60 mile round trip to your job in the dead of the Minnesota winter or the depth of Arizona summer can really be done on a bike.

"When gas is 6 US$/gallon (as it is here in Europe), people will change their minds. And all of a sudden, riding a bike is no more un-american."

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 12:39:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, "lifestyle bullshit" is what most people do for a living. Eliminate their living and you elimnate their ability to pay their mortgage, their car note, etc. . .

Then what happens? The banking system collapses because people can make good on their mortgages and carnotes.

You guys don't get the complexity and intereconnectedness of what we're dealing with here.

"spends a good 3/4 of it's energy on 'lifestyle bullshit'"

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 12:40:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that should read, "can't make good" not "can make good"

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 12:53:00 AM PST, Blogger dub_scratch said...

Here is a point regarding Jevon's Paradox and cars that people are overlooking.

Most think that significant improvements in MPG fuel economy will save oil for other non car uses (conservation), lower oil demand and lower price. But how does Jevon's Paradox produce the opposite outcome?

Let's make two imagined examples comparing efficiency improvements vs no improvements. Let us say that Earth has a new car technology were the available car gets 75 MPG. And then let's say in a parallel universe (PU) no significant improvement is found. And lets imagine that oil peaks in 2006 and declines @ 3%.

On Earth in the emerging markets, particularly in China, there is developing a car culture. Yet when oil prices go up, the high MPG car allows that development to go foreword. The Chinese build an American style car infrastructure and sprawl cities and the Chinese go on buying cars like mad. The country ends up with a 400 million 75 MPG car fleet by 2020.

But over at PU, the Cathayans find that there are little prospects for growing their car culture due to peak oil. The PU Cathayans retract the development of their car infrastructure and they proceed to fit their cities without so many cars. The Cathayans return to the famed bicycle as the main mode of transport while cities are reformed to support such a mode. They end up with some cars, a fleet of 75 million that are driven lightly by 2020.

Now back over at Earth, the USA is faced with oil shortage, but the new car technology allows Americans to keep their diving habits. The country grows its fleet to a plateau of 300 million cars by 2020.

But over at PU, The Confederate States of America (CSA) find that chronic oil shortages are too much to bear for the public of car addicts. With no significant MPG technology available, the CSA is forced to retract their driving once it is realized that 90% of all urban driving is unnecessary anyway. The CFA folks become resourceful and inventive, employing all kinds of methods that help their economy humming along, albeit with much less driving. The CFA still have about 120 million cars by 2020 (left over from their heyday), but folks there drive them very little.

Without doing any numbers and while making some reasonable assumptions, we can see that efficiency improvements in some energy consumption products can actually mean less energy is conserved. Cars are frivolous energy wasters that require huge infrastructure investments. The prospect of the car fleet mutating to a oil shortage is not unlike a virus mutating to conform to a new environment. Cars are energy sinks, so when cars gain in MPG they become more efficient energy wasters.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 1:19:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

Yeah, cause making that 60 mile round trip to your job in the dead of the Minnesota winter or the depth of Arizona summer can really be done on a bike.

Why don't you move, lard-ass?

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 1:30:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

Chris L:
You're right. But note: I'm assuming that Jevons Paradox (JP) is true. The point is this: assuming that JP is true, why should Ms. Harper care about it? She has a monetary incentive to conserve. She doesn't have a monetary incentive to care about JP. So why should she care about JP?

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 1:41:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

peep these charts to see why your ideas are bullshit:

Those charts are just another load of Dick Cheney "can't live without a car" bullshit. It's amazing the lengths addicts will go to to rationalize their "needs".

I know it's hard to accept, but private automobiles aren't necessary to live. That's a stone-cold proven fact.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 3:44:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still don't get it.

I lived 92 km (app 60 miles) from work. Because diesel is expensive, I carpooled.

Then I moved.

In town I use a bike. I cycle to work, about 5 miles one way. Takes about 40 min, if I go by car it takes 25 min.

I admit: I don't live in Minessota or in Arizona. But I am not sure what that has to do with all this.

So it looks to me: High prices will change your behaviour.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 4:18:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris L said...

Here is a point regarding Jevon's Paradox and cars that people are overlooking......

Doesn't apply to electric cars.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 4:59:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jevons Paradox...or rather the current use of it...depends largely on several things:

1) Human behavior


2) Relatively stagnant prices

Let me adress them in reverse order, since the second is much quicker.

If I reduce my consumption of $2 gas to half of what it was, and prices remain at $2, it's true that I will have more disposable income.

If, however, gasoline goes from $2 to $4, and I cut my usage by half, I do not have more disposable income. Hence, a more costly resource circumvents the "paradox"...assuming the extra money really is needed for obtaining the resource and not resulting in pure profit for someone, whether it be a government taxing the resource or the resource companies artificially inflating the price.

Okay next comes the assumption concerning human behavior.

Let's suppose our new vanpooling friend takes her extra $180 a month and spends it on hmmm...upgrading the insulation on her house. Yes, the insulation costs energy and all, but the investment results in a long term savings of energy. Suppose our friend now has $250 extra a month, long term. She's still worried about costs and climate change, and what not, so she spends her extra money replacing all her lights with compact flourescents...again, short term loss, but long term cutting of her lighting cost by 75% or she installs a solar hot water heater...

...and so forth. Now we have a lovely feedforward loop where short term investments of energy yield longer term savings, and the profit is reinvested into further energy savings and efficiencies. Voila! Exponential growth is a two way street.

So, the key is human behavior. Accepting something like the typical interpretation of Jevons Paradox as an excuse to do nothing is a cop-out. If you ain't part of the solution...regardless of your pseudo-intellectual're part of the problem.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 5:07:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very bad economics comparing GDP with vehicles miles and arguing cars create growth directly in line with consumption. Common sense tells us that trips to see friends and family a few miles round the corner and journeys to the shops replacing bus trips and walking are having very little and possibly a negative effect when external costs and loss to other economic sectors is being taken into account.

In fact a better comparison would be to compare disposable income to vehicles miles, and here we see a tighter correlation. What can we learn by this? Well when people have more money to spend, then tend to travel further (take holidays, journey to out of town shopping instead of local shops) and buy cars, which tend to be an ‘aspiration object’. How many times have you heard people say ‘IF I had the money I’d buy a car and take a vacation/holiday’. It’s just a way of spending money and could be spent on other economic sector it just so happens that cars/vacations are the ‘in thing’.

By arguing cars directly create economic growth it would be ignoring people that don’t have cars or use them less. It would ignore the internet and ignore people working or doing business on public transport – a more productive use of time – rather than spending hours driving themselves. Moreover, it would argue more car use means more GDP, when we know congestion causes additional costs to business and the environment.

In the UK there has been a major uncoupling between energy use and GDP and vehicle miles/GDP.

It would be more efficient for the economy/energy to travel less and do the same business or use more efficient transport. Obviously I’m not arguing cars produce NO growth, there’s a lot of employment involved with the motor trade and it may have opened up more travel opportunities. However, historically this has been at the expense of other sectors. Proponents of GDP/Car use must do better.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 5:22:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a sub note I must clarify when I say ‘other economic sectors’ I don’t just mean bus companies and cycle shops. When you spend $10 getting to a store and paying for the fuel/car/insurance/wear, then its denying other companies money in the store or even a direct download on the internet. For example that $10 might buy you a computer game, so you are denying the less energy intensive IT sector of your custom and spending it on luxury transport instead, with its huge costs to the environment, accidents and congestion. Indeed, one less car on the road may save someone else time/money and create employment elsewhere.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 6:54:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proof you're idea is bunk. I just called my brother in law, told him I would be conserving gas. He drives a Hummer and said, "great, you'll make it cheaper for me so I don't have to conserve."

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 7:26:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The government implements a $2 per gallon gas tax. The revenue is used to fund the building of nuclear power plants. Gasoline use drops 20%. The physcial act of building nuclear plants consumes a small fraction of the oil saved, expecially in the long run as the country replaces exisiting ICE vehicles with electric. Jevon's paradox refuted in one of the post likely energy crunch scenarios.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 7:29:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Proof you're idea is bunk. I just called my brother in law, told him I would be conserving gas. He drives a Hummer and said, "great, you'll make it cheaper for me so I don't have to conserve."

This is why we need a gas tax that pegs gas at a certain price, so that is doesn't drop in response to reduced demand. Idea has already been floated by key conservatives in US government.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 8:38:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many people can afford that Hummer that your brother is driving around? Not too many.

The point is, just because there are a few idiots out there that feel the need to drive around in a gas guzzler does not mean that other people conserving won't matter. There are a lot of people that I know trading their gas guzzlers in for something that gets better gas mileage.

I forget where I saw it, but there is a website that has a few photos of all the Hummers a dealer is trying to hide in a hotel parking lot to make it look like there are not that many Hummers left on their lot. Hell Ford just anounced today they are closing 5 plants across the country (the SUV variety) do I think the higher prices are working despite the fact that gas is slowly coming back down to normal.

I tend to agree with the Wired article that said the best thing that could happen is gas at $5 a gallon in the USA. The higher gas goes, the more motivated people will be to conserve. Hell, I make around $120,000 a year and could easily afford any car/SUV I want. I was thinking about getting the new Dodge Charger, but the high fuel prices now have me looking at either a hybrid or a diesel VW Jetta because of our recent $3 a gallon scare. High prices motivate people - I am living proof of that.

Again, just because your brother is an idiot that feels more important because he drives a Hummer doesn't mean everybody feels this way. Every bit of conservation help.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 8:47:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hell Ford just anounced today they are closing 5 plants across the country (the SUV variety) do I think the higher prices are working."

Exactly! High gas prices = auto industy crashes = US economy crashes = US people get crazy and elect psychos like Hitler!!!

This is what the doomers are trying to tell you JD tries to debunk by saying, "no, prices will go up and people will conserve and all will be fine."

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 9:49:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I saw your brother in his Hummer I would imobilize the vehicle in the proper fashion. Then I would drag him from his tank, put him under citizen's arrest, and treat him like the war-criminal he is. "Why are we in the middle east, soldier?" I'd say. He is sending his money to aid and comfort the enemy.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 9:55:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. Ford decides to close 5 plants around the world (two are outside the USA) and because of that, it goes to show that high fuel prices are going to topple the U.S. economy.

I might be tempted to give you an ounce of credit on this if these were the first auto manufacturing plants to close but they are not and they will not be the last. The auto manfactures have been hurting for a while now and it has had nothing to do with the recent spike in fuel prices or Peak Oil. They were hurting long before Katrina and they will continue to hurt even if oil dropped to $1 a gallon. Why? Because the prices of new vehicles have gone through the roof and people just aren't buying cars like they use too. Rather, they are holding on to their older cars or buying used vehicles rather than new.

Now, back to the 5 plants that are closing. I have not researched it much other than browsing through the Yahoo! story about it. But across the river from me in Louisville, KY there are two ford plants and all they manufacture are SUVs. If people are buying fewer SUV in an effort to conserve, these SUV plants could face shutdowns. This would not be because of Peak Oil but because the demand for SUVs is declining as people try to conserve more. Does that mean Ford is in trouble or the economy is going to crash? No, it just means people are not buying these gas guzzlers as much as they use to in a effort to conserve fuel and to save money. Conversely, the sales of small cars and more fuel efficient cars may increase so the plants that manufacture these vehicles may grow as a result.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 10:01:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't bother responding, Flow. That guy is just another apocalysaholic over here from

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 11:03:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel we are getting off subject here as often happens when doomers can't prove something so lets go back to the orginal question I have presented based on the post that JD put on this blog that started this discussion:

:...the person was able to go from spending $200 a month on gas to around $25. At $2 a gallon, this person is not buring 87.5 gallons of gas a month.
Please name me one "doodad" that exists that you can buy for $175 or less that burns through 87.5 gallons of gas to produce."

If you are able to answer this simple question you can prove Jevon's Paradox applies to oil/fossil fuel and that conservation will not matter. Please don't reply that people in the USA will not conserve as this is not an answer to the question. Let's pretend the question assumes Peak Oil has happened and gas is $10 a gallon and the mass-majority of people WANT to conserve to save money.

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 11:14:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately, "lifestyle bullshit" is what most people do for a living. Eliminate their living and you elimnate their ability to pay their mortgage, their car note, etc. . .

Then what happens? The banking system collapses because people can make good on their mortgages and carnotes. "

Yes and alot of people end up in serious economic trouble, many of them ending up homeless, banks require government assistance, we enter a depression the likes of which we haven't seen in a while.

I'm not saying it will be a sunshine and butterflies flying out your ass utopian future, even for folks like me who live in relatively stable climates who already live without the requirement of a car. The difference is people in serious debt are going to be in more serious trouble, if I'm living in an area with awesome public transportation, with no personal debt am I in as much risk? I mean, if everyone around here still gets to work with no problems regardless of driving or not, still has the same disposable income, orders stuff over the internet instead of driving out to buy it - they are still circulating money through the economy but not using nearly as much as people who live in suburbia have to.

Rough lifestyle altering changes take place in a rapid decline scenario, probably a very very bad depression, but some will fare better than others. Even if I'm full of bullshit can you give me one good reason why you should NOT get out of debt and ditch your car? Even in Dick Cheney's wildest wet dream fantasy of the future gas still costs money, why not save yourself some?

At Friday, December 2, 2005 at 11:17:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing since I'm sure you will bring it up, in the future shipping companies will not use gasoline based vehicles ( , in such far off unimaginable times as 3 years from now, so the "ordering from the internet" suggestion of mine actually uses no gasoline. (except for the feedstocks in whatever you are ordering, and the oil required in the industrial processes, etc, however even if we got ALL of our feedstock from liquefied coal it would be enough for at least an entire human lifespan)

At Sunday, December 4, 2005 at 3:37:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hummer owners are hardly conservation targets, it's the symbol of anti-conservationism...

but here's a fun trick to pull on the enforced population control/die-off doomers: apply jevons paradox to population instead of resource...

At Sunday, December 4, 2005 at 3:42:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw, flow, i was not disagreeing with you when i posted the numbers for $3, $5, and $10 gas.

i was trying to point out that by the point that prices get that high there will be a psychological component involved which is like a critical mass for conservation of a particular resource (oil in this case)

At Saturday, March 18, 2006 at 5:48:00 AM PST, Blogger Aaron Dunlap said...

This is embarassing...

... & refutes nothing.

Since the concept of relative comparison seems beyond many of you I won't waste our time repeating it.

But suffice to say, if you think lowering prices of useful stuff won't encourage it's consumption...

You're dreaming...

At Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 9:27:00 PM PDT, Blogger pillpusher said...

If any fuel you use is cheap then yes, some idiot will waste it but if electricity jumps to 30-40 cents a kwh then conservation becomes key to keeping a budget and conservation becomes a part of life. Just by lowering wattages of bulbs and switching to low-wattage high effcient flourescent bulbs I have lowered my electric bill from an average of 900kwh a month to 750kwh a month on average. that is about %17 and there is room to grow. If half the households in usa did this think of the reduction in demand. Ths doesn't include using a clothes line or pushing some hardcore conservation which could easily be done if push comes to shove. Certainly better than hoping for a quick death as the doomers say is the only way out.

At Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 12:42:00 PM PDT, Blogger wbhyoung said...

Flow asks "Please name me one "doodad" that exists that you can buy for $175 or less that burns through 87.5 gallons of gas to produce."

To look at it this way is too simplified because of something called the multiplier effect. So using this example, a person saves $175. For simplicity, lets say they either 1) spend it or 2)save it (or some combination of both).

1) they spend it on consumption, which directly or indirectly causes additional oil consumption. This in turn causes additional acitivity and profit for a business, industry, or individual. Then that business or individual spends or saves the money -if they spend it, additonal consumption is created, and additional activity and profit is created in another sector. And on and on it goes

2) the person saves the $175 in a bank account, or buys a govt bond or something. The bank then loans out a multiple of that amount to individuals and businesses, who spend the money on additional consumption, which spills over into other sectors and the multiplier effect kicks in again. Or if a govt bond was purchased, the govt spends it and the multiplier applies here too. What is also interesting is that if a lot of people conserved gas and saved money, national savings would increase, lowering interest rates and thereby further increasing consumption.

So when you look at the multiplier and spillover effects, you can see how using oil more efficiently can lead to higher usage overall.

At Monday, December 3, 2007 at 5:39:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a quick comment to wildwell.

Jevons in fact was not a doomer. He did not think the world would come crashing down as we ran out of coal. He in fact says the opposite.

"Many persons perhaps entertain a vague notion that some day our coal seams will be found emptied to the bottom, and swept clean like a
coal-cellar. Our fires and furnaces, they think, will then be suddenly extinguished , and cold and darkness will be left to reign over a depopulated country. It is almost needless to say, however, that our mines are literally inexhaustible. We cannot get to the bottom of them; and though we may some day have to pay dear for fuel, it will never be positively wanting."

This is what he says. Whether production volumes follow an inverted U or not, the result is that as reserves become more scarce, the price rises. Nothing more.

The problem the doom-sayers have is that oil and other fossil fuels have highly inelastic demand, so when prices rise, it is almost impossible to avoid them in the short run. This leads to inflation and decreased in real income if wages to not rise accordingly. This is generally regarded as a recession.

Of course, the way to avoid such a situation is to radically improve the efficiency of conversion of fossil fuels to useful services. Because we do not demand the fuel itself, but the services it provides, we can somewhat avoid this problem. That is not to say that overall demand decreases due to these efficiency improvements. It is simply that the services we expect do not increase too much in price to cause the various recessional pressures I mentioned previously.

Finally, a comment to Flow.

Your story about the car pooler is rather interesting. And it is true that such behavioural changes will occur as fuel becomes more expensive. What can I spend $175 on that uses 87 gallons of fuel? Well in Europe and Australia you can buy budget airline tickets for about $60, with some special as low as 5c (really). However the direct effect of respending that money does not give the complete picture. There are many further flow on effects from such changes in consumption patterns.

If you want a good run down on the latest discussion in what is now known to energy economists as the rebound effects, go to

It is true that the fossil fuel reserves are essentially finite, but that does not mean we will 'run out', just that they will get rather expensive rather quickly.

At Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 7:29:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and most of the commentors have got Jevons' Paradox quite wrong. The gist of Jevons' Paradox is that when increased technological efficiency reduces the amount of a resource necessary to perform a task, it also increased the number of tasks that can be performed by an amount of that resource. Since the resource is now more useful, it is consumed in greater quantities at any given price.

At Monday, June 23, 2008 at 2:43:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nurse Stacey Harper now flies on a 747 to Cancun for winter vacations with the money she saved by carpooling and burns 3200 liters of fuel per hour in the process.

At Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 10:04:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's probably in this blog somewhere but I can't be arsed to read the entire blog. The money saved by reduced consumption per individual gets ploughed back into the economy with a multiplier effect based how quickly the money changes hands (money supply theory I believe). So, $100 can turn into $1000 in a year lets say. That is what causes the problem and why Jevons is fundamentally correct.Unless you can 'freeze' this 'extra' money (say in a long term savings account) and reduce the effect it has then it will always have a bad effect on resource usage. Even in a savings account it will still have a negative effect on resource usage.
In short, all human activity has a negative effect on resource consumption. The only question is how much ?

At Monday, November 24, 2008 at 4:08:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with asking "how many gallons to make a doodad" is that it ignores the knock-on economic effect of buying consumer goods; namely keeping the economy going round and round, which helps to keep the demand for gas/oil up, especially in growing doodad-making economies like China. So although we may downshift into a more efficient use of energy per unit of economic output, the overall economic output stays higher than it would otherwise be without that greater efficiency. A direct comparison of two different individual consumption patterns may show one person to be more efficient even though that person are spending the money they save on doodads, but the broader impact of this money cycling back into the economy may not be more efficient once you count not just the energy used to make the doodad, but the also the energy used to make the doodads that the doodad-makers buy and so on.
You might object that the money spent on gas goes back to the oil company too, so there is really no difference between the knock-on effect of more doodad-makers or more oil wells. But consider this; the oil companies are making above and beyond the amount of profit they need to carry out all their desired capital expenditures, even if the price drops significantly through more efficient use of their products.
The question is really about how many times the money you spend on a given product cycles through the economy and creates more economic activity. My bet at the moment is that your average doodad is linked to more suppliers, employees and etc. than your average oil company. This is because the oil companies are going to do all their infrastructure development and drilling activity anyway, whether gas is $4 or $3 a gallon, while the doodad companies are going to make more or less doodads based on how many they can sell at a profit (which will be easier if oil is cheaper).
Fundamentally, this is about where you draw the economic boundaries. You can't draw them meaningfully around individuals or even nations in a globalized economy; you have to consider the total global effect.


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