An Introduction to the Jevons Paradox

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Zero Waste Millennial

The Jevons Paradox, first observed by William Stanley Jevons in the 19th century, describes the phenomenon by which consumption of a resource increases in response to advances in the efficiency by which that resource is used, sometimes negating the efficiency gain altogether.

From Wikipedia:

The Jevons paradox was first described by the English economist William Stanley Jevons 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 the increased use of the steam engine in a wide range of industries. This in turn increased total coal consumption, even as the amount of coal required for any particular application fell. Jevons argued that improvements in fuel efficiency tend to increase, rather than decrease, fuel use: “It…

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