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Car notches: Strategic automaker responses to fuel economy policy

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  • Sallee, James M.
  • Slemrod, Joel

Abstract

Notches – where marginal changes in behavior lead to discrete changes in a tax or subsidy – figure prominently in many policies. In this paper, we analyze notches in fuel economy policies, which aim to reduce negative externalities associated with fuel consumption. We provide evidence that automakers respond to notches in the Gas Guzzler Tax and mandatory fuel economy labels by precisely manipulating fuel economy ratings so as to just qualify for more favorable treatment. We then describe the welfare consequences of this behavior and derive a welfare summary statistic applicable to many contexts. In brief, notches are an inefficient substitute for smooth policies because they create marginal incentives that vary among decision makers and induce some individual actions that have negative net social benefits.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 96 (2012)
Issue (Month): 11 ()
Pages: 981-999

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:96:y:2012:i:11:p:981-999

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

Related research

Keywords: Notches; Fuel economy; Externalities; Corrective taxation;

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References

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  1. Blundell, Richard, 2000. "Work Incentives and 'In-Work' Benefit Reforms: A Review," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 27-44, Spring.
  2. James M. Sallee, 2010. "The Taxation of Fuel Economy," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 25, pages 1-37 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Bovenberg, A.L. & Mooij, R.A. de, 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-152985, Tilburg University.
  4. 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.
  5. Kahn, James A, 1986. "Gasoline Prices and the Used Automobile Market: A Rational Expectations Asset Price Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 323-39, May.
  6. Thomas Klier & Joshua Linn, 2012. "New‐vehicle characteristics and the cost of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(1), pages 186-213, 03.
  7. Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 180-212, August.
  8. Ian W. H. Parry & Margaret Walls & Winston Harrington, 2007. "Automobile Externalities and Policies," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(2), pages 373-399, June.
  9. Soren T. Anderson & Ian W. H. Parry & James M. Sallee & Carolyn Fischer, 2011. "Automobile Fuel Economy Standards: Impacts, Efficiency, and Alternatives," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(1), pages 89-108, Winter.
  10. Turrentine, Thomas S. & Kurani, Kenneth S., 2007. "Car buyers and fuel economy?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 1213-1223, February.
  11. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2011. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 749-804.
  12. Gloria Helfand & Ann Wolverton, 2011. "Evaluating the Consumer Response to Fuel Economy: A Review of the Literature," NCEE Working Paper Series 200904, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Apr 2011.
  13. Soren T. Anderson & James M. Sallee, 2009. "Using Loopholes to Reveal the Marginal Cost of Regulation: The Case of Fuel-Economy Standards," Working Papers 0901, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  14. 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.
  15. Arnold Harberger, 1995. "Tax Lore for Budding Reformers," NBER Chapters, in: Reform, Recovery, and Growth: Latin America and the Middle East, pages 291-310 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Ian W.H. Parry & John Norregaard & Dirk Heine, 2012. "Environmental Tax Reform," IMF Working Papers 12/180, International Monetary Fund.
  2. X. D'Haultfoeuille & P. Givord & X. Boutin, 2011. "The Environmental Effect of Green Taxation: the Case of the French "Bonus/Malus"," Documents de Travail de la DESE - Working Papers of the DESE g2011-14, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques, DESE.
  3. Boomhower, Judson & Davis, Lucas W., 2014. "A credible approach for measuring inframarginal participation in energy efficiency programs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 67-79.
  4. Thomas H. Klier & Joshua Linn, 2012. "Using vehicle taxes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions rates of new passenger vehicles: evidence from France, Germany, and Sweden," Working Paper Series WP-2012-09, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  5. James M. Sallee, 2013. "Rational Inattention and Energy Efficiency," NBER Working Papers 19545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Small, Kenneth A., 2012. "Energy policies for passenger motor vehicles," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 46(6), pages 874-889.
  7. Sara LaLumia & James M. Salle & Nicolas Turner, 2013. "New Evidence on Taxes and the Timing of Birth," Department of Economics Working Papers 2013-06, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  8. Adriaan Perrels & Tarja Tuovinen, 2012. "The Effectiveness of Differentiation of the Finnish Car Purchase Tax according to Carbon Dioxide Emission Performance," Research Reports 168, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).

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