The Jevons Paradox – Energy Savings Never Realized

The Jevons Paradox: I just came across this term today in an article from the New York Times by Ed Conway titled “The Paradox Holding Back the Clean Energy Revolution”; link below

The paradox refers to the trend that as energy becomes more available and at a lower cost, the use of increases, meaning that energy efficiency does not really lead to savings. Conway writes:

We’ve known about the Jevons Paradox for years, but it’s becoming a more troubling problem now that governments have pledged to eliminate their net carbon emissions to slow global warming. A significant part of that carbon reduction is expected to come from using more efficient products, be they electric motors instead of internal combustion engines, or LED lights instead of traditional bulbs. But the logic of Jevons is that instead of banking the efficiency savings we make as technology advances, we go out and spend it.

It actually makes sense to me that this would be the case. There are lots of useful things that I can think of that would be feasible that are currently not being done, if energy were much cheaper. Desalination is one example. Humans naturally seeks to do things more economically, and new technology allows for ingenuity to bring new processes and applications to light. I think that cheaper and more abundant energy just opens up more uses for it.