The Jevons paradox was described by the English economist William Stanley Jevons in his book “The Coal Question”, published in 1865. In his analysis, the author noted that advances in the efficiency of steam engines, which provided a lower consumption of coal to produce the same amount of energy, led, however, to an increase of the total consumption of coal due to higher demand. Thus, the Jevons Paradox occurs whenever the increase in the efficiency of use of a given resource leads, not to a reduction, but to an increase in the total consumption of that resource. This is the effect produced by an elastic consumption curve*, that is, the one in which the cost reduction causes a proportionally greater increase in its demand.
A well-known example is the case of emails and messaging apps. Although these tools increase the efficiency of our communication, instead of saving time, we end up spending more hours of our day involved with communication due to the increased volume of communication and the demand for using these same tools.
Therefore, not always an increase in the efficiency of use of a given resource will reflect a reduction of its total consumption, it is necessary to consider the elasticity of its consumption curve.
* Elastic consumption is one in which the demand for an item changes proportionately more than the price changes; while inelastic consumption is one in which the demand for an item changes proportionately less than the price changes.