Since the 1970s when environmental concerns first hit the political front, we have made great attempts to encourage sustainable development. These attempts include things such as recycling, carpooling, using energy efficient lights and purchasing products which do not emit harmful chemicals. What is still not being taken into account are things such as airlines who are not responsible for the carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere, or the price of food not reflecting how much it costs to clean waterways which were polluted by agrochemicals. Beef consumption is an example of an economically wasteful item, as well as tobacco consumption.
These examples demonstrate “external costs” which are not calculated into any Gross Domestic Product. Our technological innovations which sought to improve energy efficiency have not led to lower energy consumption nor reduced environmental impacts. Lower costs are associated with energy efficient products which lead people to using more energy. Because our society has reduced energy costs through our technological efficiency, consumers are prone to buying more products, buying more powerful products, or choosing larger products. Promoting energy efficient products leads to increased consumption and emissions. These rebound effects can be avoided through taxation and regulation on behalf of the government, service providers, as well as manufacturers.
Energy conservation and energy efficiency have been the goals of technology related to sustainable development. While policy makers have held discussions where these two were interchangeable, their meanings are very different. National examples of energy conversation or reduced energy consumption are things such as vehicle speed limits. Suggestions for personal means of lowering energy consumption include lower the heat or air conditioning by a few degrees. Energy efficiency, on the other hand, is the ratio of energy services to energy input. This means replacing old equipment with newer equipment to get the most out of the energy used. Increased consumption comes from improved efficiency in the form of more efficient aircraft systems which lower the price of airline tickets which increases the number of travelers.
As far as domestic improvements are concerned, larger products such as wide-screen televisions are now more efficient, which means that households generally purchase more per household doubling energy consumption in the United Kingdom between 2002 and 2006. Consumers replace the lights in their house with 18W bulbs instead of 75W bulbs which saves 75% of power. However, knowing that the light bulbs use less power, many consumers leave lights on longer and leave more lights on, effectively canceling out the savings they achieved through installing the 18W bulbs. Households which save money through better installation will raise the heat higher and leave it on longer.
Likewise, cars have improved with lightweight materials, better burning engines, fuel injections, as well as aerodynamics. However, with this in mind consumers have not improved fuel efficiency because they purchase more cars and use their cars more frequently. The direct effects are caused by consumers who desire to use more of a product or service because the cost is lower. Indirect effects are caused by lower energy prices which lead to greater disposable income which is spend on other products and services which consume energy. Overall our energy efficiency has led to worsening consumer energy use.
Article by Steven Cortez, a freelance writer and the editor of www.TopNetbookpicks.com which provides reviews and information for netbooks computer products.