If your phones battery will last 12 hours before it dies, you’ll be careful to make it last all day. But if it will last 24 hours, you’ll use it whenever you feel like it and not worry about it. This is also known as the rebound effect, or Jevon’s Paradox, for anyone who wants to look it up.
What this says is that the savings in energy that come from increased efficiency are eaten up by increased usage, ranging from small impacts to an increase in usage! So if your battery lasts longer, you’ll use it more. If your car gets better mileage, you’ll do more road trips, or not lump errands together as often. All of these things cut into the potential savings that the improvements were made for.
If you used your phone the same amount as before a more efficient battery or processor was installed, then the advertised savings would be accurate. The same goes for driving. If we didn’t change our habits, but used a more efficient vehicle, we would use less fuel. But part of where this fails is that road trips and vacations are generally held back by cost. So by increasing the capability of your vehicle, those things become feasible. Which is great! Vacations are fun, exploring new places, meeting new people, and everything else that is involved.
This means that the forecasted energy savings are actually much lower than what is listed. This isn’t to discourage innovation, just put it into perspective with what’s actually happening. Making things more efficient is what entire industries are based upon. We like innovation, it makes life as we know it better, but we need to keep reality in mind.
Partanen, Rauli, and Janne M. Korhonen. “Is “Wishing for the Best” Really the Only Plan?” Climate Gamble: Is Anti-nuclear Activism Endangering Our Future? Finland: Rauli Partanen & Janne A. Korhonen, 2015. N. pag. Print.