Energy Prices and Householder Behavior in France
When the price of a good increases, demand decreases. This "law" is part of the training of all economists and even the general public. Overall, it holds for oil consumption since 1973, but not sector by sector. The demand for motor fuels has not slowed while at the same time demand for oil for home heating has greatly decreased. This indicates that user behavior is far less rational than assumed by economic analysis. Results of consumer surveys in France point to different behavior patterns and allow description of several consumer strategies for responding to energy price increases: (a) the economic strategy (spend as little as possible); (b) the growth strategy (showing no interest in restraint on one's living standard); (c) the patrimonial strategy (accumulating, accumulating . . .); and finally (d) the hardship strategy (working to reduce an already very low consumption). In the face of these consumer strategies, pricing policy can have only a limited influence.
Between 1962 and 1973, energy consumption for domestic heating more than doubled in France. Between 1973 and 1984--also an eleven year period--consumption decreased by