Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Outlook

  • Comment
TECHNICAL

DOES IT MATTER?

Either side of this column are featured documents committed to energy conservation. But are all such efforts having any effect?

In homes especially, it has long been found that improvements in building performance lead to improved comfort rather than energy saving. This was thought to be a passing phase, as the national building stock was upgraded. But more recent studies of buildings by DoE still showed the nation had hardly reduced energy consumption.

Environmental economics ideas, described recently in New Scientist (5.9.98), argue that conservation measures may save little energy. The argument is that as energy-efficiency improves, (often in parallel with wealth), energy prices fall and it becomes more attractive to buy further energy- consuming goods or building plant. Overall, fuel use and greenhouse gas emission could even rise. It is the hallmark of the industrial era.

Not all economists agree. Some feel that the urge for conservation will gradually outstrip the urge to consume more. Certainly, trying to save energy specifically, not just reduce fuel costs, is a recent objective, not a hallmark of the whole industrial era. Could carbon taxes be made large enough to change buying behaviour? The energy optimists are betting on some carbon taxes, used specifically for green investment; on alternative energy sources; and on forests to act as 'sinks', absorbing CO2.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.