Jevon’s SUV paradox

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Jevon’s paradox: When a small percentage of the population chooses to drive fuel efficent automobiles, and a large percentage drives inefficient vehicles, every barrel of oil saved by the efficient group is ultimately consumed by the less efficient group. In fact, the net effect of the conservation will be to lower the price pressure on the inefficient consumption, and thus make such consumption more desirable in economic terms.

Hubbert peak – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One particular form of such clashes of interest has received the name “tragedy of commons.” That refers to a situation in which many consumers are harvesting a communally owned resource (such as fish in the ocean, or grass in common pastures), and in which there is no effective regulation of how much of the resource each consumer can draw off. Under those circumstances, each consumer can correctly reason “If I don’t catch that fish or graze that grass, some other fisherman or herder will anyway, so it makes no sense for me to be careful about overfishing or overharvesting.” The correct rational behavior is to harvest before the next consumer can, even though the end result is depletion or extinction of the resource, and hence harm for society as a whole.

Jared Diamond