Photo of Erich Muehlegger

Erich Muehlegger is a Professor of Economics at the University of California, Davis, and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

His research interests include industrial organization, public finance, economic regulation, and environmental policy.

Muehlegger received his BA from Williams College in 1997 and his PhD from MIT in 2005. He taught at the Harvard Kennedy School from 2005-2014 and has taught at UC Davis since 2014.



Recent Research Highlights

Global Transportation Decarbonization (with David Rapson), Journal of Economic Perspectives, forthcoming

Replacing fossil fuels in the name of decarbonization is necessary but will be difficult due to their as-yet unrivaled bundle of attributes: abundance, ubiquity, energy density, transportability and cost. There is a growing commitment to electrification as the dominant decarbonization pathway. While deep electrification is promising for road transportation in wealthy countries, it will face steep obstacles. In other sectors and in the developing world, it's not even in pole position. Global transportation decarbonization will require decoupling emissions from economic growth, and decoupling emissions from growth will require not only new technologies, but cooperation in governance. The menu of policy options is replete with tradeoffs, particularly as the primacy of energy security and reliability (over emissions abatement) has once again been demonstrated in Europe and elsewhere.

Energy Prices and Electric Vehicle Adoption (with James Bushnell and David Rapson), Revisions requested at JPE: Micro

This paper provides the first evidence on how electric vehicle (EV) sales respond to energy prices. Using EV registrations in California, we use a border-discontinuity strategy exploiting sharp changes in residential electricity prices between utilities. EV sales are six times more sensitive to gasoline prices than to electricity prices. However, EV retention decreases with local electricity prices, suggesting that owners learn by experience about operating costs. Results inform optimal subsidy and tax policy. If consumers underestimate EV cost of ownership, optimal purchase incentives combine a subsidy to address external benefits with a tax to address consumer mis-optimization.