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Environ Int. 2014 May;66:88-91. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.01.029. Epub 2014 Feb 16.

Higher fuel prices are associated with lower air pollution levels.

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Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. Electronic address:
School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


Air pollution is a persistent problem in urban areas, and traffic emissions are a major cause of poor air quality. Policies to curb pollution levels often involve raising the price of using private vehicles, for example, congestion charges. We were interested in whether higher fuel prices were associated with decreased air pollution levels. We examined an association between diesel and petrol prices and four traffic-related pollutants in Brisbane from 2010 to 2013. We used a regression model and examined pollution levels up to 16 days after the price change. Higher diesel prices were associated with statistically significant short-term reductions in carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Changes in petrol prices had no impact on air pollution. Raising diesel taxes in Australia could be justified as a public health measure. As raising taxes is politically unpopular, an alternative political approach would be to remove schemes that put a downward pressure on fuel prices, such as industry subsidies and shopping vouchers that give fuel discounts.


Air pollution; Fuel; Policy; Taxes; Vehicles

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