Friday, August 1, 2008

A Pro-Nuclear Argument...

...that I hadn't heard before. Something rather rare, to be honest, as I follow the issues quite avidly.

The idea is more efficient use of energy will reduce energy use. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out that way:

And when it comes to arguing the merits of energy efficiency, Lovins’s prime nemesis is a dead guy – William Stanley Jevons – a British economist who in 1865 determined that increased efficiency won’t cut energy use, it will raise it. “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuels is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.” And in the 142 years since Jevons put forth that thesis, now commonly known as the Jevons Paradox, he’s yet to be proven wrong.

It makes sense, once you think about it. More discussion of the concept is here at the Nuclear Notes blog. "Negawatts", for all their usefulness, do not yield megawatts. Now conservation, that is a different story. The comment thread discusses the difference between conservation and increased efficiency. I consider the best way to illustrate the distinction to be the resulting effect.

Increased efficiency means you use less energy for the same effect. This is the result of improved systems in the product. Conservation is where less energy is used for a lesser effect. This is the result of changing consumption behaviors. Think of lighting: installing compact fluorescent bulbs increases energy efficiency, while leaving the lights off conserves energy. Conservation can reduce energy usage, but to actually take it to the point of useful reductions, it would need to reduce individual and collective standards of living, That is about as close to a politic sre loser as could exist...

More in the series in defense of nuclear power here.

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