by Chris Bodenner
In the above video, David Owen visualizes the rebound effect. A reader pushes back against the notion:
I don’t drive a Prius, but I do drive a Ford Fusion Hybrid, which I bought a little over a year ago. One thing I have noticed about driving it is that it has made me more sensitive to my energy usage. Hybrids don’t automatically give you better mileage; electric mode only works at 45 mph and lower, it doesn’t kick in if the gas engine is cold, acceleration usually requires gas (I curse every red light), etc. Maximizing mileage in a hybrid takes work and close attention – attention that anyone who invests in this still-expensive technology is going to give simply in order to feel he’s getting his money’s worth. Thus I pay more attention to the length of my trips; I try to combine trips whenever possible in order to keep the engine warm; I cast longing eyes on plug-in hybrids, since my driving is sharply divided between ultra-short city driving and long trips. Driving a hybrid has actually educated me on my driving habits and my personal contribution to energy depletion, pollution, and greenhouse gases; it does not make me feel I have permission to burn more energy.
And perhaps that consciousness spills over into other living habits, such as keeping one's thermostat in check or remembering to turn off the lights. Another reader:
As David Roberts outlines over at Grist, the rebound effect doesn’t diminish the cause for promoting efficiency gains. Efficiency gains in any sector will inevitably lead to a higher GDP and is always good policy.
The New Yorker wrote about this, a la the Prius effect, a bit more than a year ago. The long and short of it is: you buy a new, energy efficient freezer. But your old one still works, so you put it in the basement, half empty (freezers are most efficient when full) and run both. Which is bad.
The rebound effect is an insufficient argument for scrapping Priuses, insulation, or distribution transformers. The rebound effect is, however, a compelling argument for a VAT or any consumption tax.