An Alternative Approach To Auto Emission Control

by Richard Mancke



The article comments on an alternative approach to auto emission control. Air pollution is a problem which many Americans view with a sense of urgency. This paper studies the costs of two possible policies for controlling a major source of air pollution-automobile emissions. It concludes that the costs of reducing automobile pollutants by enforcing Congress' mandatory emission standards are both higher and less equitably allocated than the costs of an alternative policy: a direct tax on motor vehicle emissions. An alternative method for reducing motor vehicle emissions is to tax them. Congress could pass a law that imposes taxes on the total pollutants emitted by each motor vehicle. The principal virtue of a direct tax on motor vehicle emissions is that it is paid by the polluters. Moreover, heavy polluters pay a proportionately higher tax than light polluters. Besides preferring the distributional implications of this type of tax, it is also preferable to mandatory emission standards when judged by economic criteria. Unlike mandatory emission standards, the higher tax paid by motorists driving high-polluting old cars will encourage them to own and operate low-polluting new cars. This leads to an additional reduction in pollution.

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