The background and the philosophy of the current automobile emission control policy (i.e. exhaust emission standards for specific pollutants) are discussed. It is suggested that the policy requiring automakers to improve technology for reduced emissions has been selected over alternative policies because the government believes that the pollution problem is purely a technological one and that the industry will respond if pressured. The failings of the standards program are discussed: perverse incentives; the historical record of industry delaying tactics; tampering, use of leaded gasoline, and inadequate maintenance of emission control systems by motorists which result in in-use emissions exceeding the Federal standards; and costly consequences of gradual phasing (i.e. interim standards). It is suggested that the required inspection and in-use standards, with the associated maintenance requirements, may be too late to play their proper role. It is acknowledged that the current emission control program has brought progress, but in a slow, costly, and inequitable manner. An effluent fee program is proposed as a better alternative. Through such a policy, polluters would be required to pay the marginal social costs of their vehicles' emissions. A thorough program would levy fees on all in-use vehicles for all easily measured, harmful pollutants, based on mileage driven in the previous year, emissions reported on an annual test, and the particular fee schedule corresponding to an area's pollution problem. This policy would provide individuals with an incentive to seek out and maintain "clean" cars, and companies with a direct incentive to build and advertise them. Three possible objections to such a program (inequity, administrative and marketing burdens, nonresponse by industry) are countered.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Also published in HS-028 918, "Government, Technology, and the Future of the Automobile," New York, 1980 p 401-20. Presented at Harvard Business School Symposium on Government, Technology, and the Automotive Future, Boston, 19-20 October 1978.
  • Corporate Authors:

    McGraw-Hill, Incorporated

    330 West 42nd Street
    New York, NY  United States  10036
  • Authors:
    • White, L J
  • Publication Date: 1980

Media Info

  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: 20 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00393053
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-028 943
  • Files: HSL, USDOT
  • Created Date: Feb 28 1985 12:00AM