The rebound effect: An evolutionary perspective
The rebound effect presents a major flaw in to energy conservation policies that aim to reduce energy consumption through energy efficiency development. Economics and energy related disciplines have thus far developed tools to measure such a phenomenon. This paper attempts to explain this seeming paradox using a thermodynamic-evolutionary theoretical framework in addition to the traditional economic approach. We here propose that evolutionary systems, such as biological or even economic systems, may rearrange themselves in a more complex fashion under the pressure of an increasing flux of energy, driven by the higher conversion rate of greater efficiency. Higher complexity, due to a greater energy density rate, counteracts the positive effects of energy efficiency. We investigated this hypothesis in the context of the road freight transport system and the productive structure. The qualitative analysis in this paper, further substantiated by figures, provides a link between the dynamics of production patterns and the effect of efficiency in the light of the macro-economic effects of increased energy demand. The analysis departs from a rigorous investigation of the actual energy efficiency evolution in the road freight transport system to develop through a survey of the subsequent worldwide economic revolution in the production system. It is then shown how outsourcing, the key feature of globalization, can be identified as the main source of traffic density growth. Finally, four paradigms are used to stress how the shift in the production system must be considered a leap in structural complexity that consequently serves to increase the frequency of components' interactions.
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