Recent Working Papers

The Local Economic and Welfare Consequences of Hydraulic Fracturing

Alexander W. Bartik, Janet Currie, Michael Greenstone, Christopher R. Knittel

Exploiting geological variation within shale deposits and timing in the initiation of hydraulic fracturing, this paper finds that allowing fracing leads to sharp increases in oil and gas recovery and improvements in a wide set of economic indicators. At the same time, estimated willingness-to-pay (WTP) for the decrease in local amenities (e.g., crime and noise) is roughly equal to -$1000 to -$1,600 per household annually (-1.9% to -3.1% of mean household income). Overall, we estimate that WTP for allowing fracing equals about $1,300 to $1,900 per household annually (2.5% to 3.7%), although there is substantial heterogeneity across shale regions.

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Are Consumers Poorly-Informed about Fuel Economy? Evidence from Two Experiments

Hunt Allcott, Christopher Knittel

It has long been argued that people are poorly-informed about and inattentive to fuel economy when buying cars, and that this causes us to buy low-fuel economy vehicles despite our own best interest. We test this assertion by running two experiments providing fuel economy information to people shopping for new vehicles. We find zero statistical or economic effect of information on average fuel economy of vehicles purchased. In the context of a simple optimal policy model, the estimates suggest that imperfect information and inattention are not valid as significant justifications for fuel economy standards at current or planned levels.

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Subsidizing Fuel Efficient Cars: Evidence from China's Automobile Industry

Chia-Wen Chen, Wei-Min Hu, Christopher R. Knittel

The Chinese automobile market is the largest in the world with annual sales exceeding 20 million vehicles. The tremendous growth in sales---over 200 percent from 2008 to 2015---and concerns over local air quality have prompted China's policy makers to incentivize the adoption of more fuel efficient vehicles. We examine the response of vehicle purchase behavior to China's largest national subsidy program for fuel efficient vehicles during 2010 and 2011. Using variation from the program's eligibility cutoffs, we find that the program boosted sales for subsidized vehicle models, but that the program also created a substitution effect within highly fuel efficient vehicles and most subsidies went to inframarginal consumers. This substitution effect greatly reduces the cost effectiveness of the program. We calculate that the average cost per ton of carbon dioxide saved is over 82 USD, well above the social cost of carbon used in U.S. regulatory filings. Using the framework in Boomhower and Davis (2014) and accounting for local pollution benefits, we show that ignoring the substitution effect would lead one to conclude that the program is welfare enhancing, whereas in fact the marginal cost of the program exceeds the marginal benefit by almost as much as 300 percent. We also show that the program was not well-targeted; the effect of the subsidy on sales of fuel efficient vehicles was smaller in areas where consumers were more likely to purchase fuel inefficient models or were lower educated.

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