Earlier this week, we wrote about embodied energy of buildings, and the concerns it poses when we think about legislating building efficiency measures. Today we take a broader view, examining economic limitations of any technology replacement effort, from rebuilding houses to replacing lightbulbs.
Suppose that high-efficiency washing machines are a necessary part of a low-carbon economy (as we believe they must be). Government tax write-offs are an effective way to encourage consumers to spend the extra money on these energy-saving machines. If the U.S. started an incentive program so effective that every consumer chose a high-efficiency machine over a conventional one, however, it would still take quite some time to replace all the energy-hogging washers in the country. Because they are such a large purchase, the vast majority of consumers replace their washing machine only when forced to do so by problems with the old machine’s operation. If you assume the average [...]