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The Taxation of Fuel Economy

In: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 25

  • James M. Sallee

Policy-makers have instituted a variety of fuel economy tax policies -- polices that tax or subsidize new vehicle purchases on the basis of fuel economy performance -- in the hopes of improving fleet fuel economy and reducing gasoline consumption. This article reviews existing policies and concludes that while they do work to improve vehicle fuel economy, the same goals could be achieved at a lower cost to society if policy-makers instead directly taxed fuel. Fuel economy taxation, as it is currently practiced, invites several forms of gaming that could be eliminated by policy changes. Thus, even if policy-makers prefer fuel economy taxation over fuel taxes for reasons other than efficiency, there are still potential efficiency gains from reform.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Jeffrey Brown, 2011. "Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 25," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number brow10-1.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12220.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12220
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Parry, Ian W.H. & Walls, Margaret & Harrington, Winston, 2007. "Automobile Externalities and Policies," Discussion Papers dp-06-26, Resources For the Future.
    2. Fullerton Don & West Sarah E, 2010. "Tax and Subsidy Combinations for the Control of Car Pollution," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-33, February.
    3. Antonio M. Bento & Lawrence H. Goulder & Mark R. Jacobsen & Roger H. von Haefen, 2009. "Distributional and Efficiency Impacts of Increased US Gasoline Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 667-99, June.
    4. West, Sarah E., 2004. "Distributional effects of alternative vehicle pollution control policies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 735-757, March.
    5. 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.
    6. Soren T. Anderson & James M. Sallee, 2011. "Using Loopholes to Reveal the Marginal Cost of Regulation: The Case of Fuel-Economy Standards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1375-1409, June.
    7. 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.
    8. Carolyn Fischer & Winston Harrington & Ian W.H. Parry, 2007. "Should Automobile Fuel Economy Standards be Tightened?," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 1-30.
    9. Lawrence H. Goulder & Mark R. Jacobsen & Arthur A. van Benthem, 2009. "Unintended Consequences from Nested State & Federal Regulations: The Case of the Pavley Greenhouse-Gas-per-Mile Limits," NBER Working Papers 15337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Turrentine, Thomas S. & Kurani, Kenneth S., 2007. "Car buyers and fuel economy?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 1213-1223, February.
    11. Chandra, Ambarish & Gulati, Sumeet & Kandlikar, Milind, 2010. "Green drivers or free riders? An analysis of tax rebates for hybrid vehicles," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 78-93, September.
    12. Li, Shanjun & Linn, Joshua & Spiller, Elisheba, 2010. "Evaluating “Cash-for-Clunkers”: Program Effect on Auto Sales, Jobs, and the Environment," Discussion Papers dp-10-39, Resources For the Future.
    13. 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.
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