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The permissibility of nudging for sustainable energy consumption

T.J. Kasperbauer

Energy Policy, 2017, vol. 111, issue C, 52-57

Abstract: Nudges modify decision frameworks in order to steer people's choices in particular directions. Modifying energy consumption choices through nudging has shown significant promise for promoting sustainable consumption behaviors. However, policy makers have been reluctant to embrace nudges, due to concerns over potential ethical objections. This paper argues that the major ethical objections to nudging are not ultimately convincing when applied to energy production and consumption. The most common ethical objections claim that nudging is paternalistic and reduces human autonomy. It is argued here that energy production and consumption are “massively architectured,” which means that they are strongly influenced by factors external to individuals. The infrastructure and framework for producing and consuming energy is largely determined prior to human decision-making. As a result, it is not clear how nudging for sustainable energy consumption could be paternalistic or autonomy-reducing. Ethical objections should thus not be a deterrent for policy makers pursuing nudges for sustainable energy consumption.

Keywords: Nudging; Ethics; Energy consumption; Sustainability; CassSunstein (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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