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Network Effects in Alternative Fuel Adoption: Empirical Analysis of the Market for Ethanol

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    Abstract

    This paper investigates the importance of network effects in the demand for ethanol-compatible vehicles and the supply of ethanol fuel retailers. An indirect network effect, or positive feedback loop, arises in this context due to spatially-dependent complementarities in the availability of ethanol fuel and the installed base of ethanol-compatible vehicles. Marketers and social planners are interested in whether these effects exist, and if so, how policy might accelerate adoption of the ethanol fuel standard within a targeted population. To measure these feedback effects, I develop an econometric framework that considers the simultaneous determination of ethanol-compatible vehicle demand and ethanol fuel supply in local markets. The demand-side of the model considers the automobile purchase decisions of consumers and fleet operators, and the supply-side model considers the ethanol market entry decisions of competing fuel retailers. I propose new estimators that address the endogeneity induced by the co-determination of alternative fuel vehicle demand and alternative fuel supply. I estimate the model using zip code level panel data from six states over a six year period. I find the network effect to be highly significant, both statistically and economically. Under typical market conditions, entry of an additional ethanol fuel retailer leads to a 12% increase in consumer demand for ethanol-compatible vehicles. The entry model estimates imply that a monopolist requires a local installed base of at least 204 ethanol-compatible vehicles to be profitable. As an application, I demonstrate how the model estimates can inform the promotional strategy of a vehicle manufacturer. Counterfactual simulations indicate that subsidizing fuel retailers to offer ethanol can be an effective policy to indirectly increase ethanol-compatible vehicle sales.

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    File URL: http://www.netinst.org/Shriver_10-20.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 10-20.

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    Length: 60 pages
    Date of creation: Oct 2010
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:1020

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    Web page: http://www.NETinst.org/

    Related research

    Keywords: ethanol; flex-fuel vehicles; indirect network e¤ects; market entry;

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    1. Steven T. Berry & Joel Waldfogel, 1999. "Free Entry and Social Inefficiency in Radio Broadcasting," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(3), pages 397-420, Autumn.
    2. Harikesh Nair & Pradeep Chintagunta & Jean-Pierre Dubé, 2004. "Empirical Analysis of Indirect Network Effects in the Market for Personal Digital Assistants," Quantitative Marketing and Economics, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 23-58, 03.
    3. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-90, July.
    4. Matthew T. Clements & Hiroshi Ohashi, 2004. "Indirect Network Effects and the Product Cycle: Video Games in the U.S., 1994-2002," Working Papers 04-01, NET Institute, revised Oct 2004.
    5. Hansen, Lars Peter, 1982. "Large Sample Properties of Generalized Method of Moments Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 1029-54, July.
    6. Hiroshi Ohashi, 2003. "The Role of Network Effects in the US VCR Market, 1978-1986," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(4), pages 447-494, December.
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