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Title: The Rebound Effect: an evolutionary perspective
Authors: Ruzzenenti, Franco
Basosi, Riccardo 
Keywords: rebound effect; energy efficiency; Energy density rate; complexity; Evolutionary approach; globalization; Road freight transport system
Issue Date: 2008
Project: None 
The rebound effect presents a major flaw in to energy conservation policies that aim toreduce energy consumption through energy efficiency development. Economics and energyrelated disciplines have thus far developed tools to measure such a phenomenon. Thispaper attempts to explain this seeming paradox using a thermodynamic-evolutionarytheoretical framework in addition to the traditional economic approach. We here proposethat evolutionary systems, such as biological or even economic systems, may rearrangethemselves in a more complex fashion under the pressure of an increasing flux of energy,driven by the higher conversion rate of greater efficiency. Higher complexity, due to agreater energy density rate, counteracts the positive effects of energy efficiency. Weinvestigated this hypothesis in the context of the road freight transport system and theproductive structure. The qualitative analysis in this paper, further substantiated by figures,provides a link between the dynamics of production patterns and the effect of efficiency inthe light of the macro-economic effects of increased energy demand. The analysis departsfrom a rigorous investigation of the actual energy efficiency evolution in the road freighttransport system to develop through a survey of the subsequent worldwide economicrevolution in the production system. It is then shown how outsourcing, the key feature ofglobalization, can be identified as the main source of traffic density growth. Finally, fourparadigms are used to stress how the shift in the production system must be considered aleap in structural complexity that consequently serves to increase the frequency ofcomponents’ interactions.
ISSN: 0921-8009
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2008.08.001
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