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Carbon Prices and Automobile Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Extensive and Intensive Margins

In: The Design and Implementation of U.S. Climate Policy


  • Christopher R. Knittel
  • Ryan Sandler


The transportation sector accounts for nearly one third of the United States' greenhouse gas emissions. While over the past number of decades, policy makers have avoided directly pricing the externalities from vehicles, both in terms of global and more local pollutants and Corporate Average Fuel Standards have changed little since the mid-1980s, there is now considerable interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions form the transportation sector. Many have argued that the unique features of the sector imply that pricing mechanisms would have little affect on emissions. This paper analyzes how pricing carbon through either a cap and trade system or carbon tax might affect greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by estimating how changes in gasoline prices alter consumer behavior. We analyze their effect on both the intensive (e.g., vehicle miles travelled) and extensive (e.g., vehicle scrapping) margins. We find large effects on both margins.
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Suggested Citation

  • Christopher R. Knittel & Ryan Sandler, 2011. "Carbon Prices and Automobile Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Extensive and Intensive Margins," NBER Chapters,in: The Design and Implementation of U.S. Climate Policy, pages 287-299 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12134

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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 113-137, August.
    4. Glazer, Amihai & Klein, Daniel B. & Lave, Charles, 1995. "Clean on Paper, Dirty on the Road: Troubles with California's Smog Check," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt5514s0hg, University of California Transportation Center.
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    Cited by:

    1. Koichiro Ito & James M. Sallee, 2014. "The Economics of Attribute-Based Regulation: Theory and Evidence from Fuel-Economy Standards," NBER Working Papers 20500, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Boehm, Michael J., 2013. "Concentration versus re-matching? Evidence about the locational effects of commuting costs," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51542, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Christopher R. Knittel, 2012. "Reducing Petroleum Consumption from Transportation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 93-118, Winter.
    4. Hymel, Kent M. & Small, Kenneth A., 2015. "The rebound effect for automobile travel: Asymmetric response to price changes and novel features of the 2000s," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 93-103.
    5. Michael J. Boehm, 2013. "Concentration Versus Re-Matching? Evidence About the Locational Effects of Commuting Costs," CEP Discussion Papers dp1207, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    6. Anderson, Soren T. & Kellogg, Ryan & Sallee, James M., 2013. "What do consumers believe about future gasoline prices?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 383-403.
    7. Daniel A. Brent, 2016. "Estimating Water Demand Elasticity at the Intensive and Extensive Margin," Departmental Working Papers 2016-06, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
    8. Cozad, Melanie & LaRiviere, Jacob, 2013. "Fuel price increases and the timing of changes in household driving decisions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 194-207.
    9. Sallee, James M. & West, Sarah E. & Fan, Wei, 2016. "Do consumers recognize the value of fuel economy? Evidence from used car prices and gasoline price fluctuations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 61-73.
    10. Kent M. Hymel & Kenneth Small, 2014. "The Rebound Effect for Automobile Travel:Asymmetric Response to Price Changes and Novel Features of the 2000s," Working Papers 141503, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L0 - Industrial Organization - - General
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics


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