FARMINGTON — Greater energy efficiency leads to greater use James LaBrecque told geology students at the University of Maine at Farmington on Wednesday.

He wanted students in professor Thomas Eastler’s  Environmental Geoscience class to “think of things differently” and set out to demonstrate the paradox with examples from his life growing up in Jay.

LaBrecque, a native of Farmington, is an inventor and an adviser to the University of Maine Mechanical Engineering senior capstone projects associated with the field of thermodynamics that pertain to refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump technology, Eastler said.

LaBrecque is a technical adviser on energy to Gov. Paul LePage and the chief technology officer for Flexware Control Technology.

Jevons paradox, described by LaBrecque, was observed by English economist William Stanley Jevons in 1865. Jevons noticed how technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal use also led to more use of coal in more ways.

There is a rebound effect on conservation, LaBrecque said.

When LaBrecque was growing up in Jay in the 1950s, his parents owned a car that got 12 miles to the gallon. It was used for short trips around town and maybe once a year to Lewiston, he said.

With more efficient cars today, vehicles are driven more. The energy savings from vehicle improvements are consumed by more use.

“It’s all about magnitude,” he said. “Twenty million barrels of oil are used every day in this country. That’s the equivalent of four rows of barrels stretching from Maine to California.”

Energy technology and efficiency supports the high standard of living Americans enjoy, he said.

“Jevons paradox and the laws of supply and demand will assure that the technological development of a $5,000 automobile getting 75 miles per gallon will simply turn into increased auto sales and more miles driven,” LaBrecque said.

More energy-efficient homes makes people feel they can set the temperature higher and heat more rooms, he said. He was referring to a low-income home improvement program in Washington County during the energy crunch in the 1970s.

People were huddled in their kitchens with sections of their homes blocked off. After energy improvements were made, people felt they could heat more space in their homes and at a higher temperature than before.

“The post-home audits showed no energy was saved,” he said.

LaBrecque asked the students what they could buy that doesn’t consume energy if they saved a $1,000 on a better car. Spending it on trips, ATVs or other products requires the use of energy, he said.

More efficient airplane flights lead to people flying more, he said. More efficient communication devices lead people to own more televisions and electronic units, he said.

“Population growth and a vastly growing demand to increase the world’s standard of living will always override our technological ability to reduce energy use,” he said.

LaBrecque also discussed alternative energy sources and how they have only scratched the surface of Maine’s energy needs. These have been illustrated with concrete promises that were vague, he said.

“Wind laws have promised to get us off oil,” he said. “We’ve not saved a gallon of oil from it.”

“The dismal performance of alternative energy systems is limited more by nature than technology,” he said. “In other words, when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining, you are dead in the water no matter what the technology.”

There are 28 windmills at Mars Hill. To get Maine homes off oil and run by wind it would take 47 Mars Hill mountains in each of Maine’s 16 counties. To get all New England homes switched to wind, it would take 729 Mars Hill mountains in each of Maine’s 16 counties, he said.

“Do the math,” Eastler told his students. “Find out the real costs.”

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