The math on why the Trump administration’s fuel standards report is seriously flawed – Christopher Knittel

Christopher Knittel, George P. Schultz Professor and Professor of Applied Economics, MIT Sloan

From San Francisco Chronicle 

Fuel economy standards are an important way for the U.S. to combat climate change. However, a 2018 study conducted by the Trump administration proposes hitting the pause button on regulations, potentially leaving billions of dollars in benefits on the table.

This is a significant change from the Obama administration, which ramped up prior fuel economy standards. That administration mandated the fleet-wide fuel economy of passenger vehicles and light trucks to reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The federal government’s cost-benefit analysis, completed in January 2017, concluded that this was technologically feasible and that benefits exceeded costs by over US$90 billion.

The current administration challenges that conclusion and recommends freezing standards at model year 2020 levels through 2025. Their analysis finds that the costs exceed the benefits by over $170 billion – a difference of over $260 billion from the previous report.

Who is right? The answer matters, because fuel economy standards are the last remaining major federal regulation to fight greenhouse gas emissions. The current administration has eliminated other regulations related to clean power and is promoting coal consumption. If the Obama administration’s analysis is correct, then pausing fuel standards will cost the economy money and impact the environment. If the Trump analysis is correct, then this may be the right call. There is a lot at stake.

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Another argument for carbon tax: how car buyers behave – Christopher Knittel

MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel

From The Sacramento Bee

Do you rationalize splurging on your daily latte by bringing your lunch to work? Every day we make decisions like this that impact our diet and pocketbook. These same trade-offs also affect the types of cars we drive, which impacts the effectiveness of fuel-efficiency policies.

In a recent study based on five years of data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, James Archsmith and David Rapson of University of California, Davis, Ken Gillingham of Yale University and I found that in two-car households, increasing the fuel economy of the first car encourages owners to demand less fuel economy in their second car. In other words, if you buy a Toyota Prius, you may be more likely to replace your second car with an SUV.

When households increase the fuel economy of their first car by 10 percent, they will reduce the fuel efficiency of the second vehicle by 5 percent, our analysis found. The result is that half the fuel economy gained from improving the first car is eaten away by a less fuel-efficient second car.

But that is only part of the story. It turns out that owners also ended up driving more total miles, which cuts fuel savings another 10 percentage points. In the end, 60 percent of the benefits of increasing the fuel economy of the first car disappear when the second car is replaced with a less efficient vehicle. Read More »

MIT Sloan Experts Podcast: Uber, Lyft and Racial Bias

MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel

We hope you enjoy the latest installment of the MIT Sloan Experts Podcast series!

The third in our series of MIT Sloan Experts podcasts features Chris Knittel, professor of applied economics at MIT Sloan, talking about his latest research on racial bias in the ride-sharing industry.

Knittel’s research focuses on how Uber and Lyft are failing black passengers and what to do about it. Listen to this brief podcast and find out how Knittel came to his conclusions, what his findings say about drivers who cancel on customers with names that generally indicate they are a person of color, and what takeaways Uber and Lyft can garner from these findings to improve.

How ride-hailing apps like Uber continue cab industry’s history of racial discrimination – Christopher Knittel

MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel

MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel

From The Conversation

From hailing taxis that won’t stop for them to being forced to ride at the back of buses, African-Americans have long endured discrimination within the transportation industry.

Many have hoped the emergence of a technology-driven “new economy,” providing greater information and transparency and buoyed by an avowed idealism, would help us break from our history of systemic discrimination against minorities.

Unfortunately, our research shows that the new economy has brought along some old baggage, suggesting that it takes more than just new technologies to transform attitudes and behavior.

Our new paper, “Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies,” found patterns of discrimination in how some drivers using ride-hailing platforms, such as Uber and Lyft, treat African-American passengers and women. Our results are based on extensive field studies in Seattle and Boston, both considered liberal-minded cities, and provide stark evidence of discrimination.

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Legal Challenge To Clean Power Plan Will Have Global Ramifications – Christopher Knittel

MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel

MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel

From The Huffington Post

The DC. Court of Appeals began hearing arguments recenlty in an historic session taken “en banc” – with a roster of 10 judges hearing a case that challenges President Obama’s Clean Power plan. Specifically, some industry associations are challenging new targets for coal plants that would require a 32 percent reduction in carbon emission by 2030. More generally, the case highlights challenges to Obama’s use of his executive powers to regulate the electricity industry in a way that will help the US meet international targets for reduction in carbon emissions.

Obama’s use of the Clean Air Act to bring his Clean Power Plan to fruition has been
called “vast legal overreach” by some law professors who have said it is tantamount to burning the constitution.

While it may take weeks or even months for the court to rule, the case highlights the extreme importance of keeping U.S. plans to reduce emissions on track in order to spur continued global cooperation on global warming. With the U.S. election continuing to create its own heat, there are many interlocking and swiftly moving pieces on the global climate change front.

The world needs continued leadership from the U.S. and a ruling by the court that Obama had overreached would impact progress globally.

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