Reading Group: 12 November 2013

We discussed ‘Towards a theory of decoupling: degrees of decoupling in the EU and the case of road traffic in Finland between 1970 and 2001‘ by Petri Tapio (Transport Policy 12 (2005) 137–151).  The reading group was a bit smaller than previous ones but we had a good discussion of a paper which took us into the unfamiliar but mainstream methodological terrain of working with macro indicators of energy demand and relating these in various ways to GDP.  Once we got over the shock of equations, we admired to some degree the attempt to look at the big picture and to engage with broad patterns of coupling and de-coupling but also found much to critique and question. This included the way in which analysis of this form is driven by the data that is available, with holes and inadequacies in datasets unresolved and often problematic; the very simplistic explanatory reasoning which followed the attempted sophisticated data analysis; the logics of substitution between transport modes and within fixed travel time budgets; the pervasiveness of ‘predict and provide’ and similar types of broad brush thinking that DEMAND needs to unpick and challenge.

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