Thursday, March 10, 2011

On the Rebound

According to John Tierney, the latest and greatest energy efficient technological wonders we all enjoy may actually do more harm to the environment than good. One example of this theory is proven when examining the driving habits of hybrid vehicle owners. The hybrid gets considerably better gas mileage than say a regular auto but the added efficiency often results in more miles driven. Since the hybrid technically saves the driver money at the pump, the driver has the tendency to drive more than those driving traditional vehicles, thus resulting in a greater impact on the environment. Tierney goes on to explain that the energy efficient label on most products today has been overused and in many cases proven false from an economic standpoint. For example, many today now spend money on new green labeled products that in fact do save the consumer money but with the money saved the consumer often spends it on additional harmful products. When added together these products have a grater effect on the environment than the less efficient counterpart. The term used to describe such a situation is the rebound effect. Tierney further outlines how the effect can “backfire” resulting in a substantial negative impact on the environment. The example he uses is an increase in the efficiency of a steel plant in China. Since it now costs less to make steel the plant is going to produce more at a faster rate than if it were using older technology resulting in a green technology backfire.

Although many theorists discount the negative impacts green products have on the environment, the fact is when the products save consumers money the consumer will buy more goods, which negatively impacts the environment. In my opinion this means we still have a long way to go in the realm of green technology. We must engineer our products to be as efficient as possible while reducing our collective impact on the environment. There must also be a point where the consumer takes a step back and examines their individual negative contributions. Until that occurs I believe we are going to continue down the same path we are currently on. Therefore, we must find a balance between product efficiency and accountability when we reach this point we can truly begin to see a greener future.
--Ryan Bailey


  1. I agree with the opinion for this article that it is important for each individual to step back and take a look at his or her lifestyle and its impact on the environment. It is not just about choosing greener products, but also about examining ones own habits and lifestyle.
    -Pamela Hargest

  2. I never thought about how people might use the money they saved from green technology. I don't think that people use the same amount of energy when they use green appliances than if they used non-green appliances. I think many people don't realize what they are doing and just need to be educated about what happens.