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The rebound effect: An evolutionary perspective

  • Ruzzenenti, F.
  • Basosi, R.
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    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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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 67 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 4 (November)
    Pages: 526-537

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:67:y:2008:i:4:p:526-537
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    1. A. Greening, Lorna & Greene, David L. & Difiglio, Carmen, 2000. "Energy efficiency and consumption -- the rebound effect -- a survey," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(6-7), pages 389-401, June.
    2. Berkhout, Peter H. G. & Muskens, Jos C. & W. Velthuijsen, Jan, 2000. "Defining the rebound effect," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(6-7), pages 425-432, June.
    3. Sorrell, Steve & Dimitropoulos, John, 2008. "The rebound effect: Microeconomic definitions, limitations and extensions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 636-649, April.
    4. Ayres, Robert U. & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2005. "A theory of economic growth with material/energy resources and dematerialization: Interaction of three growth mechanisms," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 96-118, October.
    5. Paul Krugman, 1995. "Growing World Trade: Causes and Consequences," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(1, 25th A), pages 327-377.
    6. Ayres, Robert U. & Warr, Benjamin, 2005. "Accounting for growth: the role of physical work," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 181-209, June.
    7. Dimitropoulos, John, 2007. "Energy productivity improvements and the rebound effect: An overview of the state of knowledge," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 6354-6363, December.
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