Fuel tax less costly than mpg standards, says MIT

| February 28, 2013

fuelA study from MIT released last week says that higher federal gasoline taxes would be less costly to the public and do more to curb fuel use — thus, reduce emissions more — than mpg and efficiency standards instituted in 2012.

MIT researcher Valerie Karplus says that if the public’s and government’s goal is for Americans to drive less and buy vehicles with better fuel efficiency, raising the tax consumers pay at the pump will push motorists to do just that and will actually cost consumers less in the long run than creating efficiency standards for manufacturers.

The reason, Karplus says, is that if consumers feel the pain at the pump each week, they’ll be more likely to act than if they simply have to buy a more expensive vehicle every few years.

Moreover, higher prices means consumers will drive less, burning less fuel and producing fewer emissions.

The study did not touch on diesel, the trucking industry or commercial driving.

For more on the study, see Overdrive sister site CCJ‘s full report.

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  • L. Kent

    Is this the best that MIT can come up with? This is the same old mindless approach which does cause some setbacks, but only hurts the consumer. Perhaps Ms. Karplus is fortunate to take a train or has other means to commute to work/class, but many in the world outside of academia do not have that option. I hope this was not a tax payer funded research project… If you are at MIT Ms. Karplus you should be able to do better.

  • http://twitter.com/michaelstruckin michael bechara


  • carllarsen

    do better than what? it is common sense that higher fuel taxes, thus higher fuel prices, would make someone drive less, and buy more efficient vehicles when they buy another car. just because you don’t agree with the message is no reason to attack the messenger.

  • Sherlocktoo

    Did MIT also figure in the $550 per year for each truck. That’ll change their figures. Yeah that is in addition to each gallon of fuel bought. And if we didn’t have diesel engine, the oil companies would have gasoline even higher, because diesel would be hazardous waste. It is the last run off a barrel of oil.

  • L.Kent

    My apologies to Ms. Karplus… I did not mean to direct my frustration toward her personally. My premise is MIT is, as I understand it anyway, one of the premier institutions where technological innovation is commonplace, so to have it represented that the solution to the infrastructure problems is to raise taxes seems real shallow. How about use all these technological advances to create a road material that surpasses the current standards of road building, perhaps leaving out the manipulations of politicians and and planned obsolescence.

    All tax increases do is create more burdens on the taxpayers. For some a double tax because the transportation industry will pass this increase onto the consuming public thereby raising yet again the cost of consumer goods.

    Come on MIT… be original, the trucks are not going anywhere, find a solution to get more life out of our highways.

    Also keep in mind, these gov’t mandates on more fuel efficient vehicles means less demand on fuel… and less tax revenue. What will the tax and spenders going to do when a large portion of the trucking industry converts to natural gas. This should lead to surpluses in the US and lower prices, better air and more fuel efficient big rigs.. will this not also reduce tax revenue. Its time the political leaders figure out how to do more with less.

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