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Reducing Petroleum Consumption from Transportation

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  • Christopher R. Knittel

Abstract

The United States consumes more petroleum-based liquid fuel per capita than any other OECD high-income country—30 percent more than the second-highest country (Canada) and 40 percent more than the third-highest (Luxembourg). The transportation sector accounts for 70 percent of U.S. oil consumption and 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Taking the externalities associated with high U.S. gasoline consumption as largely given, I focus on understanding the policy tools that seek to reduce this consumption. I consider four main channels through which reductions in U.S. oil consumption might take place: 1) increased fuel economy of existing vehicles, 2) increased use of non-petroleum-based, low-carbon fuels, 3) alternatives to the internal combustion engine, and 4) reduced vehicle miles traveled. I then discuss how these policies for reducing petroleum consumption compare with the standard economics prescription for using a Pigouvian tax to deal with externalities. Taking into account that energy taxes are a political hot button in the United States, and also considering some evidence that consumers may not "correctly" value fuel economy, I offer some thoughts about the margins on which policy aimed at reducing petroleum consumption might usefully proceed.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.26.1.93
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 26 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
Pages: 93-118

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:26:y:2012:i:1:p:93-118

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.26.1.93
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References

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  1. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  2. Ian W.H. Parry & Kenneth A. Small, 2007. "Should Urban Transit Subsidies Be Reduced?," Working Papers 060723, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  3. Christopher R. Knittel & Ryan Sandler, 2010. "Carbon Prices and Automobile Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Extensive and Intensive Margins," NBER Working Papers 16482, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Kenneth A. Small & Kurt Van Dender, 2007. "Fuel Efficiency and Motor Vehicle Travel: The Declining Rebound Effect," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 25-52.
  5. Jonathan E. Hughes & Christopher R. Knittel & Daniel Sperling, 2008. "Evidence of a Shift in the Short-Run Price Elasticity of Gasoline Demand," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 29(1), pages 113-134.
  6. Stephen P. Holland & Jonathan E. Hughes & Christopher R. Knittel & Nathan C. Parker, 2011. "Some Inconvenient Truths About Climate Change Policy: The Distributional Impacts of Transportation Policies," NBER Working Papers 17386, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Michael Greenstone & Elizabeth Kopits & Ann Wolverton, 2011. "Estimating the Social Cost of Carbon for Use in U.S. Federal Rulemakings: A Summary and Interpretation," Working Papers 1106, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  8. Christopher R. Knittel & Ryan Sandler, 2011. "Cleaning the Bathwater with the Baby: The Health Co-Benefits of Carbon Pricing in Transportation," NBER Working Papers 17390, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Lipman, T E & Weinert, Jonathan X., 2006. "An Assessment of the Near-Term Costs of Hydrogen Refueling Stations and Station Components," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt51c0937x, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
  10. Austin, David & Dinan, Terry, 2005. "Clearing the air: The costs and consequences of higher CAFE standards and increased gasoline taxes," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 562-582, November.
  11. Delucchi, Mark, 2005. "A Multi-Country Analysis Of Lifecycle Emissions From Transportation Fuels And Motor Vehicles," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt5x20v080, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
  12. Delucchi, Mark, 2005. "A Multi-Country Analysis of Lifecycle Emissions From Transportation Fuels and Motor Vehicles," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt8nf3606c, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
  13. Shanjun Li & Christopher Timmins & Roger H. von Haefen, 2009. "How Do Gasoline Prices Affect Fleet Fuel Economy?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 113-37, August.
  14. Christopher R. Knittel, 2009. "Automobiles on Steroids: Product Attribute Trade-Offs and Technological Progress in the Automobile Sector," NBER Working Papers 15162, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Janet Currie & W. Reed Walker, 2009. "Traffic Congestion and Infant Health: Evidence from E-ZPass," NBER Working Papers 15413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Christopher R. Knittel & Douglas L. Miller & Nicholas J. Sanders, 2011. "Caution, Drivers! Children Present: Traffic, Pollution, and Infant Health," Working Papers 1113, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  17. Weinert, Jonathan X. & Lipman, Timothy, 2006. "An Assessment of the Near-Term Costs of Hydrogen Refueling Stations and Station Components," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt65f0n732, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
  18. Daniel J. Graham & Stephen Glaister, 2002. "The Demand for Automobile Fuel: A Survey of Elasticities," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, London School of Economics and University of Bath, vol. 36(1), pages 1-25, January.
  19. Meghan R. Busse & Christopher R. Knittel & Florian Zettelmeyer, 2009. "Pain at the Pump: The Differential Effect of Gasoline Prices on New and Used Automobile Markets," NBER Working Papers 15590, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Delucchi, Mark, 2005. "A Multi-Country Analysis of Lifecycle Emissions From Transportation Fuels and Motor Vehicles," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt1z392071, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Ian A. Lange & Sarah Polborn, 2012. "Can Lobbying Encourage Abatement? Designing a New Policy Instrument," CESifo Working Paper Series 3760, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Christopher R. Knittel, 2013. "The Political Economy of Gasoline Taxes: Lessons from the Oil Embargo," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 28 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hirte, Georg & Tscharaktschiew, Stefan, 2013. "The optimal subsidy on electric vehicles in German metropolitan areas: A spatial general equilibrium analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 515-528.

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