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Gasoline Prices, Fuel Economy, and the Energy Paradox

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  • Hunt Allcott
  • Nathan Wozny

Abstract

It is often asserted that consumers undervalue future gasoline costs relative to purchase prices when they choose between automobiles, or equivalently that they have high "implied discount rates" for these future energy costs. We show how this can be tested by measuring whether relative prices of vehicles with different fuel economy ratings fully adjust to time series variation in gasoline price forecasts. We then test the model using a detailed dataset based on 86 million transactions at auto dealerships and wholesale auctions between 1999 and 2008. Over our base sample, vehicle prices move as if consumers are indifferent between one dollar in discounted future gas costs and only 76 cents in vehicle purchase price. We document how endogenous market shares and utilization, measurement error, and different gasoline price forecasts can affect the results, and we show how to address these issues empirically. We also provide unique empirical evidence of sticky information: vehicle markets respond to changes in gasoline prices with up to a six month delay.

Suggested Citation

  • Hunt Allcott & Nathan Wozny, 2012. "Gasoline Prices, Fuel Economy, and the Energy Paradox," NBER Working Papers 18583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18583
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    Cited by:

    1. Linn, Joshua, 2013. "The Rebound Effect for Passenger Vehicles," Discussion Papers dp-13-19-rev, Resources For the Future.
    2. Mark R. Jacobsen & Arthur A. van Benthem, 2013. "Vehicle Scrappage and Gasoline Policy," NBER Working Papers 19055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Nicolle, Ambre, 2016. "Are consumers myopic? Evidence from handset and mobile services choices," 27th European Regional ITS Conference, Cambridge (UK) 2016 148693, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).
    4. Magali A. Delmas & Matthew E. Kahn & Stephen Locke, 2014. "Accidental Environmentalists? Californian Demand for Teslas and Solar Panels," NBER Working Papers 20754, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Reid, Sergey & Spence, David B., 2016. "Methodology for evaluating existing infrastructure and facilitating the diffusion of PEVs," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 1-10.
    6. Liu, Yizao, 2014. "Household demand and willingness to pay for hybrid vehicles," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 191-197.
    7. REYNAERT, Mathias, 2014. "Abatement strategies and the cost of environmental regulation: Emission standards on the European car market," Working Papers 2014025, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
    8. Hunt Allcott & Michael Greenstone, 2012. "Is There an Energy Efficiency Gap?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
    9. Daziano, Ricardo A., 2015. "Inference on mode preferences, vehicle purchases, and the energy paradox using a Bayesian structural choice model," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 1-26.
    10. Hackbarth, André & Madlener, Reinhard, 2016. "Willingness-to-pay for alternative fuel vehicle characteristics: A stated choice study for Germany," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 89-111.
    11. Okwelum, Edson, 2015. "Consumer Heterogeneity and Gasoline Price Response: Implications for Optimal Tax policy," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205897, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.
    12. Chen Wang & Ricardo Daziano, 2015. "On the problem of measuring discount rates in intertemporal transportation choices," Transportation, Springer, vol. 42(6), pages 1019-1038, November.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • L62 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment; Related Parts and Equipment
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices

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