Luskin Scholar Matthew Kahn’s study─ showing how energy conservation incentives can sometimes ironically lead to greater consumption─ caught the attention of a range of mainstream media outlets. "Nudges Gone Wrong" was a typical headline about it. Most recently, his study was featured on the American Public Media radio program Marketplace.
The “Marketplace” story describes how Dr. Kahn and Dr. Dora Costa analyzed a group of utility customers who were getting regular notices from their power company comparing their energy use with similar households. The economists found that some conservatives, as in political conservatives, didn't respond all that well to a little nudging from their power company to conserve.
“Like a lot of things, environmental conservation is another issue that divides conservatives and liberals─ but maybe it can turn into a bipartisan issue with a little bit of tweaking on how the conservation message is conveyed,” stated Marketplace.
Instead of comparing energy usage between neighbors, a more effective way to nudge conservation customers into conserving could simply be to talk about the bottom line.
“Marketplace” guest speaker Jim DiPeso, director of Republicans for Environmental Protection, noted that “If you save energy, you'll have more money to spend on things that you really enjoy -- unless you really truly enjoy sending money to your friendly utility.”