Whether it is a new fuel efficiency standard for cars, bans on incandescent light-bulbs, or those commercials touting businesses’ commitment to lowering their carbon footprint, the idea that we can reduce carbon emissions by using energy more efficiently is a mantra of our age.
In fact, energy efficiency is considered to be so important that it is sometimes said to be a “fifth fuel” along with coal, petroleum, nuclear, and “alternative” energy. And who can forget Amory Lovins’s term negawatt in this regard?
But as New Yorker staff writer David Owen details in his new book The Conundrum, the idea that we can reduce our energy use by buying the right products is based on flawed economic reasoning.
Improving efficiency and related conservation are not unique to energy but all resources.…