johnmarkos wrote:I've been rolling the Jevons paradox around my mind for a while and I keep disagreeing with Jevons here (quite a feat considering he's been dead for over a hundred years).Civilization, says Baron Liebig, is the economy of power, and our power is coal. It is the very economy of the use of coal that makes our industry what it is; and the more we render it efficient and economical, the more will our industry thrive, and our works of civilization grow (140-142).
In Jevons world, we are basically machines that turn coal (or oil or other forms of energy) into the benefits that we want and need in our lives. He asserts that we're insatiable w/r/t energy. But as consumers, we know that that isn't really true. We're interested in the benefits themselves: the energy use is merely a means to that end. In fact, since there are a finite number of hours in the day and a finite number of days of our lives, there's an upper limit to even the benefits that we can enjoy in that limited time.
So if we can get the same or greater benefits while using less energy, we defy Jevons.
So is the Jevons paradox proven somewhere or is it just an observation of what society tended to do in the 19th century? Although some on this site tend to treat it as a kind of law governing human behavior, I can see how we could not follow it. As long as energy was not the limiting factor to increasing our well-being, we wouldn't need to increase energy use to improve our standard of living.