July 2022

IZA DP No. 15416: The Effect of Diesel Tax Rates on the Daily Commuting of US Workers: An Effective Instrument to Promote Sustainable Mobility?

In this paper, we analyze whether diesel fuel taxes can be an effective tool to boost the daily commuting of US workers towards the use of green modes of transport. To that end, we use data from the American Time Use Survey 2003-2019 and explore the factors influencing commuting time and the proportion of commute using alternative modes of transport, including walking and cycling. Our results indicate that diesel fuel taxes are linked to a reduction in the total time devoted to commuting, and to the proportion of commuting by private car, and to an increase in the proportion of commuting done by green modes of transport such as public transport and walking. This relationship is not homogeneous in the urban dimension, as the effects on total commuting time and the percentage of commuting by public transport is present in urban areas only. In a context where many countries are implementing policies aimed at increasing the use of sustainable modes of personal mobility, our results indicate that taxing fuels used for personal mobility may be an efficient way to decrease the use of more polluting modes of transport and encourage more eco-friendly alternatives while commuting.