This may be a little off topic for the forum, but I recently read an article in the New York Times, talking about how increased efficiency can actually lead to increased consumption over time.
The article suggests that in the long run, efforts to increase efficiency in heating, lighting, etc. may actually lead to increased energy use.
Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
It makes sense on some levels, but I've been struggling with relating this idea back to my own life....
The most analogous situation I can think of is if I don't spend all my money on beer, I can buy a bigger TV, thus increasing my resource consumption. I can think of all sorts of tradeoffs where I spend less money on one item (hot water, electricity), leaving me with more money for consumptive goods.
I guess to reduce resource consumption, we have to stop finding new things to spend our money on. Even better, we can find ways to avoid having to spend so much money in the first place to get the 'things we need'. This allows us the freedom to either retire early, or not have to worry about making so much $ in the first place.
I think it depends on how much access you have to resources.
Take the example of, say, using a more efficient/effective rocket mass heater to heat your home in winter.
Where I live, the homes are heated exclusively by wood gathered locally. The men with tractors just cut down trees from the forest and bring them home. They might well burn more wood than they need and end up with a warmer house in the winter if they had a rocket mass heater.
The old widows, however, who gather what wood they can find and carry it back to their houses can't really increase how much they bring back. A more efficient stove would mean they could keep themselves warmer on less wood, which in practice means they can continue living on their own for longer before they get taken away to be looked after by relatives or put in a care home. When they're in their seventies they bring back really heavy bits of wood (we get the annual task of sawing them up as winter approaches - we can hardly lift some of them!) but by their eighties they are reduced to gathering bundles of sticks.
Personally I find that money doesn't just automatically flow into my bank account, I have to work for it. Because I'm not that thrilled with the idea of working for money, I put some efforts toward reducing my need to earn - aka "efficiency". If excess money is becoming a problem because of energy efficiency, reducing one's income is a simple solution.
In the larger picture, energy efficiency enables us to not have to build more coal plants, nuke plants, etc. There's actually plenty of energy being produced at the present time and there's no real need for new power plants. Industries which make money from the construction and maintenance of new plants like to try to convince us otherwise, but it is not true. I live in a state which is one of the biggest energy hogs on the planet, but people here are finally figuring out we really don't need more power plants and have been successful in stopping the construction of several new coal plants.
I guess it also depends what direction your taking your efficiency. for instance heating and cooling take up I believe it is 40 percent of an average homes energy usage. If you build underground, and yes you can go underground and still have many windows and good natural lighting, then you can drastically reduce heating and cooling needs. there are also the methods that the earthship folks use, and others.
i do agree things like low flush toilets and faucets in many cases seem to not work exactly as advertised, but what about a compost toilet? you can do that cheaply and safely depending on regulations in your area. What if the capitol you saved doing that you used to put in a grey water system? these can be perfectly safe, and then I can use it to help establish fruit trees and other things. i guess perhaps some others would use that saved capitol to do something else, but is hat lost efficiency? efficiency gained in one area, and expelled elsewhere? you still only had the same capitol to work with, and atleast you balanced out one segment. and if your like me you used the saved capitol to balance out the next.
I'm broke all the time, but I wouldn't want a big, flash tv even if I could afford it. For me, energy-saving is my default setting as well as being financially vital. If I had more cash, it'd go on the mortgage. Boring, but in this country I'll give my bank at least double the houses value in interest if I pay off my mortgage at the minimum rate.
here's an article about "energy efficiency" in Germany. when one makes changes to existing systems one has to be very familiar with all the interconnections (stacking functions) built into the system. if not, then the outcome can be a crapshoot. the same goes for permie consulting