Prius rebound effect

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a buncha tree-huggers
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Watch that carbon footprint!

The Prius rebound effect, called the Prius fallacy by its detractors, is an assertion that savings accrued by owners and drivers of hybrid or electric automobiles are lost by increased energy consumption through increased driving or by other high-carbon purchases, thus negating any benefits of purchasing a Japanese car fit with regenerative braking.


The term was coined by David Owen, an author for The New Yorker, in his book Conundrum[1][2][3], which details the Red Queen's race between advancements in energy efficiency and increasing energy consumption. It fairly is a moderate piece, despite the fact that the Wall Street Journal lapped up every word because it decried attempts to kickstart renewable energy development and the abandoning of fossil fuels (since they ain't all been used up yet!) as expensive and premature.[4]


Unsurprisingly, Owen's assertions (on just the Prius rebound effect) were met with skepticism from scientists and statisticians. One analysis, later republished in Scientific American, thoroughly debunked the Prius rebound effect through examination of actual driving habits of hybrid and non-hybrid drivers.[5] The results were that Prius drivers were not more likely to drive farther because of their increased gas mileage and that Owen (or anyone else for that matter) did not have any way of showing that Prius drivers took their savings and spent it on higher carbon purchases, the conceivably worst of which would entail having a charcoal-grilled steak dinner every evening of the week.