The ESG Initiative at the Wharton School


Measuring Vehicle Exhaust Standards Over Time

Outlet: Analytics at Wharton
Analytics at Wharton provides funding to a wide variety of research initiatives. In this research spotlight, they profile Arthur van Benthem, Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy and co-director of the Wharton Climate Center, on his research into vehicle exhaust standards over time.

Wharton professor Arthur van Benthem is no gearhead, but you’d never guess that from the passionate way he talks about cars.

No, it’s not torque or horsepower that excites van Benthem, a professor of business economics and public policy whose research focuses on energy and environmental policies. It’s the results of his study into 50 years’ worth of vehicle emissions data – literally hundreds of millions of data points – that get him fired up.

The co-authored study, which was published in December 2022 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that local air pollution emissions from vehicles – consisting of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, and nitric oxide – in the United States have fallen by more than 99% since 1967 under standards first imposed by the Clean Air Act. In fact, the average new vehicle today releases about 200 times less pollution than a car built in the 1960s, according to the study.