A recent article in the Economist makes a convincing case that environmentalists have it all wrong about energy efficiency. Energy efficiency promotes higher energy use because the more light created with the same amount of electricity creates demand for more uses of light not less.
This is not the first study I’ve read on this topic. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
Environmentalist think that efficiency will lead to stable or lower energy use over time. Consumers have something different in mind: they want more light and producers are going to want to deliver it. Efficiency will hasten this trend.
You may have read articles about the problems that Google is having keeping up with server demand. Growing so fast, one of the main roadblocks they encountered was server power supplies. The main driver of server costs is not the hardware but the cost of electricity. So, they designed their own equipment that is more efficient.
But in the end, does anyone think that Google is going to use less energy in the future than it does now? Nope. They are getting involved in the energy market big time all to create even more data centers and more services.
There’s only one way to reduce energy use: make energy more expensive. Nobody wants to do that, at least not directly. The cap-and-trade bills in Congress would increase the cost of energy, but only indirectly.