Reading Group: 17 December 2013

On 17 December a group of us – Richard, Jan, Guilio, Alison, Elizabeth, Neil and Gordon – discussed Missing carbon reductions? Exploring rebound and backfire effects in UK households by Angela Druckman et al, (Energy Policy, 39, Issue 6, June 2011, Pages 3572–3581) a paper suggested and introduced by Richard .  This initially provoked some quite different reactions, some were encountering the work on ‘rebound’ for the first time and found its focus on the knock effects or unintended effects of interventions intriguing and interesting. Others more familiar with the notion of rebound dug into its method and conceptualisation. Through the discussion various ‘lacks’ were identified – a lack of history in the way that the method bounds its analysis in a discrete point in time and cannot allow for any longer term or ongoing sense of social change; a lack of political economy, for example in missing the important of debt in the financial profiles of UK households; and in general the way that economic-based analyses of this form have to bound, exclude and simplify to make the process of reasoning and analysis at all feasible. We also wondered about the politics of rebound analysis. We observed that it is tightly framed by the need to demonstrate the impact and efficacy of discrete policy interventions, but were also slightly mystified as to what a policy maker faced with rebound knowledge of this form would then do with it. For this specific paper though we felt that part of its agenda was to demonstrate that rebound effects were not as severe as other analyses had suggested, and therefore to support the idea that energy demand-related policies (at least in principle) could have worthwhile impacts.  The Sussex-led EUED Centre is doing lots of rebound analysis, so it will be interesting to see how their work is received and responded to.

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