Why Energy Efficiency Is Bad for the Planet

Energy efficiency means cheaper energy. Cheaper energy means having more money to spend on energy. See the problem? What we really must accept is slower economic growth.

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In Washington's bitter political climate, the one thing everyone can agree on is energy efficiency, whether that means longer lasting light bulbs or cars that go further on a gallon of gas. But our passion for cheap energy is likely to have some unsavory knock on effects, says writer David Owen, whose new book examines something called 'the rebound effect'. "It's pretty simple: as we become more efficient at using energy, we can save money—which then allows us to use more of that energy than we did before."

 

What's the Big Idea?

Fundamentally, there is a tension between reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting economic growth. And while renewable energy technology is getting better, it is facing new challenges from non-renewables like Canada's tar sands and shale natural gas. One way to capitalize on more efficient energy is to build dense urban areas where people require less energy to live, but in ever-sprawling America, that could be a tough sell, not to mention scaling down economic growth to cut carbon emissions.

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