Will Rising Gas Costs Change Driver Behavior?

By Jordan Weinstein

Mar. 5, 2012

LISTEN: WGBH News' Jordan Weinstein talks to Erich Muehlegger about the study.

BOSTON — Massachusetts gasoline prices are up for the 11th consecutive week. According to AAA of Southern New England, the average price of $3.73 per gallon in the Bay State is 29 cents higher than a year ago. But if you think that’s high, a new study says higher gasoline taxes might be just what’s needed to get Americans to reduce their consumption.
Study co-author Erich Muehlegger, associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, says that incremental increases in prices at the pump are not enough to dramatically reduce gasoline consumption — largely because drivers think that over time the prices could come down. However, increases in taxes are seen as permanent and drivers alter their behavior more dramatically, especially when it comes to what kind of car they will buy.

> > Read the study.

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