Goldstein, David B.


David B. Goldstein is a director of the energy program of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He has worked on energy efficiency and energy policy since the 1970s. He has been instrumental in the development of energy efficiency standards for new buildings and appliances currently in effect at the regional and national level in the United States, Russia, Kazakhstan, and China. Dr. Goldstein received a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California at Berkeley, is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the recipient of its Leo Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002.

How Bad Ideas Keep Rebounding Into Public Discourse: The Rebound Effect and Its Refutation

By David Goldstein
Natural Resources Defense Council

Every few years, a new report emerges that tries to resurrect an old hypothesis: that energy efficiency policy somehow results in consumers using more energy instead of less. This hypothesis was introduced in the 19th Century by economist William Stanley Jevons, who argued that increases in the energy efficiency throughout a nation would lead to increases in coal consumption, rather than decreases.  

Recent articles have attempted to revive these claims, also known as “rebound effect” —restating that energy efficiency tends to encourage more energy use, not less, and that if a consumer’s immediate goal is to tackle climate change, then it seems risky to count on reaching it by improving efficiency. Assuming rebound effects eat up most of the energy savings, such claims then argue that efficiency cannot be a good policy to reduce energy consumption or combat climate change.