Ryan Kellogg

What are the implications of gasoline price volatility for the design of fuel economy policies? I show that this problem has a strong parallel to Weitzman’s (1974) classic model of using price or quantity controls to regulate an externality. Changes in fuel prices act as shocks to the marginal cost of complying with the standard. Assuming constant marginal damages from fuel consumption, an application of Weitzman (1974) implies that a fixed fuel economy standard reduces expected welfare relative to a “price” policy such as a feebate or, equivalently, a fuel economy standard that is indexed to the price of gasoline. When the regulator is constrained to use a fixed standard, I show that the usual approach to setting the standard—equate expected marginal compliance cost to marginal damage—is likely to be sub-optimal because the standard may not bind if the realized gasoline price is sufficiently high. Instead, the optimal fixed standard will be relatively relaxed and may be non-binding even at the expected gasoline price. Finally, I show that although an attribute-based standard allows vehicle choices to flexibly respond to gasoline price shocks, the resulting distortions imply that the optimal fuel economy standard is not attribute-based.

Areas of Focus: Energy Markets
Definition
Energy Markets
Well-functioning markets are essential for providing access to reliable, affordable energy. EPIC research is uncovering the policies, prices and information needed to help energy markets work efficiently.
Fossil Fuels
Definition
Fossil Fuels
Under current policies, fossil fuels will play an important role in the energy system for the foreseeable future. EPIC research is exploring the costs and benefits of these fuels as...
Transportation
Definition
Transportation
Mobility is central to economic activity. Yet, a lack of fuel diversity and continued demand growth have made the transportation industry a major contributor to global pollution and carbon emissions....
Fuel Economy Standards
Definition
Fuel Economy Standards
Fuel economy standards are the United States’ cornerstone transportation policy aimed at reducing both oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. EPIC research is exploring whether these standards are structured optimally...