Jevons paradox

In economics, the Jevons paradox (/ˈɛvənz/; sometimes Jevons effect) occurs when technological progress increases the efficiency with which a resource is used (reducing the amount necessary for any one use), but the rate of consumption of that resource rises because of increasing demand.[1]

.. In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal-use led to the increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to common intuition, technological progress could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.[4][5]

.. Jevons observed that England‘s consumption of coal soared after James Watt introduced the Watt steam engine, which greatly improved the efficiency of the coal-fired steam engine from Thomas Newcomen‘s earlier design. Watt’s innovations made coal a more cost-effective power source, leading to the increased use of the steam engine in a wide range of industries. This in turn increased total coal consumption, even as the amount of coal required for any particular application fell. Jevons argued that improvements in fuel efficiency tend to increase (rather than decrease) fuel use, writing: “It is a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.”[4]

 

Power Struggle: Trump Coal Policy

The Trump administration’s commitment to coal is facing its stiffest test yet after an Ohio energy company made a plea to favor that power source over its many rivals. FirstEnergy’s fleet of coal-fired and nuclear power plants filed for bankruptcy over the weekend, just days after the company asked the federal government for an emergency order that would keep many of the facilities open. The Energy Department now has to decide whether to compel the nation’s biggest grid operator to cut deals that shift more of such plants’ costs to consumers. President Trump has been one of coal’s biggest boosters as the industry battles rising competition from such alternatives as natural gas and solar power. While a successful plea by the Ohio company could protect thousands of jobs at coal plants, it could also hurt rival energy businesses and raise electricity prices for customers in states across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. That would pose a significant risk to Mr. Trump by antagonizing his supporters among electricity users and companies in the oil-and-gas industry that have become primary suppliers to power plants.

G.O.P. Karma in West Virginia

Don Blankenship, might win the party’s primary in the West Virginia Senate race. Mr. Blankenship, you see, spent a year in prison on charges of conspiring to violate mine safety standards, after an inquiry into a mine collapse that killed 29 men.

.. One of the powerful cons that helped the party win the 2016 election was Donald Trump’s promise that he would restore coal miners’ jobs. Since coming to office, though, he has done little to increase employment in an increasingly mechanized industry losing the competition against cheaper natural gas.

Lessons From the Rise of America’s Irish

They arrived dirt poor and uneducated in the 1840s. After decades of struggle, they achieved prosperity.

The peasants fleeing Ireland had a shorter life expectancy than slaves in the U.S., many of whom enjoyed healthier diets and better living quarters. Most slaves slept on mattresses, while most poor Irish peasants slept on piles of straw. The black scholar W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that freed slaves were poor by American standards, “but not as poor as the Irish peasants.”

The Irish who left for America were packed into the unused cargo space of wind-driven ships returning to the U.S., and the voyage could take up to three months, depending on weather. These cargo holds weren’t intended to carry passengers, and the lack of proper ventilation and sanitation meant that outbreaks of typhus, cholera and other fatal diseases were common. Emigrants slept on 3-by-6-foot shelves, which one observer described as “still reeking from the ineradicable stench left by the emigrants of the last voyage.”

In 1847, 19% of the Irish emigrants died on their way to the U.S. or shortly after arriving. By comparison, the average mortality rate on British slave ships of the period was 9%. Slave-owners had an economic incentive to keep slaves alive. No one had such an interest in the Irish.

The 19th-century immigrants from Europe usually started at the bottom, both socially and economically, and the Irish epitomized this trend. Irish men worked as manual laborers, while Irish women were domestic servants. But not all ethnic groups rose to prosperity at the same rate, and the rise of the Irish was especially slow. They had arrived from a country that was mostly rural, yet they settled in cities like Boston and New York, working “wherever brawn and not skill was the chief requirement,” as one historian put it. In the antebellum South, the Irish took jobs—mining coal, building canals and railroads—considered too hazardous even for slaves.

In the 1840s, New York City’s population grew 65%. By midcentury, more than half of the city’s residents were immigrants, and more than a quarter of those newcomers had come from Ireland. At the time, half of New York’s Irish workforce and nearly two-thirds of Boston’s were either unskilled laborers or domestic servants. “No other contemporary immigrant group was so concentrated at the bottom of the economic ladder,” writes Thomas Sowell in his classic work, “Ethnic America.”

It wasn’t just a lack of education and urban job skills that slowed the progress of the Irish in America. So did social pathology and discrimination. The Irish were known for drinking and brawling. Irish gangs were common. When an Irish family moved into a neighborhood, property values fell and other residents fled. Political cartoonists gave Irishmen dark skin and simian features. Anti-Catholic employers requested “Protestant” applicants. Want ads read: “Any color or country except Irish.”