Traveled to DC to speak with the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality

Together with Rick Larrick and Christoph Ungemach, I traveled to DC earlier this month to speak to members of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality.  We specifically got to meet the team who designed the new US fuel economy label:

EPA Fuel Economy label

EPA Fuel Economy label

We got to present our work to the whole team, including Sarah Froman, Lisa Snapp, Nicole Meyer, Amy Bunker, Susan Burke, Kristin Kenausis, Gloria Helfand, and Robin Moran. It was fascinating to learn about the politics behind the design decisions and the resource limitations. For example, the Government cannot collect the opinion of 10 or more people without overcoming a mountain of paper-work; hence the (over-)use of small focus groups.

The general theme of the discussion was that the label packed in a lot of information, but put some really good metrics on the label, too. One metric that we are glad to see is “gallons per X miles” in addition to “miles per gallon”. As Rick Larrick and Jack Soll (2008) have shown, people tend to mis-understand how MPG translates into fuel savings and carbon emissions.

A second metric that we are glad to see is the “You spend/save $X more/less in fuel costs over 5 years”. As myself and Rick Larrick have shown (2014), people tend to pay more attention to fuel economy information when it is presented in terms of costs over an expanded scale.

We hope this initial conversation with the EPA will spark an ongoing discussion that will allow academic research ideas to flow more quickly into government initiatives such as this.