Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from Michael Patrick Gibson

The Skinny on a Gas Tax

An economist argues that raising taxes on gasoline could have an unexpected benefit: a less obese population.

  • September 13, 2007

There has been much debate about the best policies for reducing carbon emissions. The most common refrain heard from economists is simply that incentives matter: if gas prices increase, people will consume less gasoline (by driving less), and alternative fuels will become more feasible substitutes (by having a more competitive price).

While an increase in the gas tax remains a point of contention, not only among economists, but also among politicians and policy wonks, now supporters of a gas tax have another reason to offer to strengthen their argument: an increase in the price of gas will most likely lead to a less obese population.

In a recent research paper, Charles Courtemanche, an economist at the University of Washington, St. Louis, provides the empirical support. He writes,

“A causal relationship between gasoline prices and obesity is possible through mechanisms of increased exercise and decreased eating in restaurants. I use a fixed effects model to explore whether this theory has empirical support, finding that an additional $1 in real gasoline prices would reduce obesity in the U.S. by 15% after five years, and that 13% of the rise in obesity between 1979 and 2004 can be attributed to falling real gas prices during this period. I also provide evidence that the effect occurs both by increasing exercise and by lowering the frequency with which people eat at restaurants.”

The AI revolution is here. Will you lead or follow?
Join us at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.