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The Prism of Elasticity in Rebound Effect Modelling: An Insight from the Freight Transport Sector

Franco Ruzzenenti ()
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Franco Ruzzenenti: Energy and Sustainability Research Institute, University of Groningen, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands

Sustainability, 2018, vol. 10, issue 8, 1-13

Abstract: If the rebound effect is to be considered a major obstacle to sustainable freight transport, then action and timely policy must be made in advance. This, however, requires a theoretical understanding of the nature of the rebound effect and an empirical grasp of its underlying mechanism. Elasticity is the centrepiece of current models on the rebound effect (or Jevons paradox). Although elasticity is a metric of indisputable usefulness for empirical purposes, it may be misleading when applied to the complex rebound effect. Drawing on the parallel case of the ‘distance puzzle’ in international economics, it will be shown how elasticity can be misinterpreted or how it can misdirect an investigation of the phenomenon by following a predetermined mindset. This particular bias is shown to widen in the long term and evolving systems in which the elasticity metric continues to output a constant number, eliciting a persistent effect. Drawing on previous research, an alternative approach to studying the rebound effect based on complex network theory and statistical mechanics of networks will be described. It will be shown how the interplay between spatial and non-spatial effects in freight transport networks can inform us about the evolution of the effect of distances on trade relationships, upon which a new metric for the rebound effect can be built.

Keywords: freight transport; rebound effect; Jevons paradox; gravity models; distance puzzle; network theory; statistical mechanics of networks; complexity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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