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Concerns about climate change, dependence on oil, and unstable gasoline prices have led to significant efforts by policymakers to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and oil consumption. Within the transportation sector, light-duty vehicles (LDVs) are responsible for more than 65 percent of oil consumption and more than 60 percent of total GHG emissions, so meaningful reductions in oil consumption and GHG emissions can be achieved if a significant fraction the LDV fleet is replaced by more fuel-efficient technologies. This dissertation, consisting of three essays, investigates the potential benefits and impacts of deploying more fuel-efficient vehicles in the LDV fleet. The first essay uses data on 2003- and 2006-model gasoline-powered passenger cars, light trucks, and sport utility vehicles to investigate the implicit private cost of improving vehicle fuel efficiencies by reducing other desired attributes, such as horsepower. The second essay estimates the private benefits and societal impacts of electric vehicles, which have implications for efforts to incentivize the purchase and production of these vehicles. The third essay explores the implications of a large-scale adoption of electric vehicles, explaining that, although such an adoption is desirable with respect to goals for achieving energy security and environmental improvement, the decline fuel tax revenues that would result has adverse implications for the current system of transportation finance.

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in March 2010 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Martin Wachs (Chair), Thomas Light, and John Graham.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.