Essays on the health, environmental and social impacts of fuel regulations

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
This thesis consists of three essays considering the health, environmental and social outcomes of two different types of regulations on fuels. The first chapter examines a recent set of International Maritime Organization (IMO) policies regulating the sulfur content of fuels used in maritime transport, lowering sulfur levels to 0.1% from their initial average of a few percent. Using US county-level sulfur dioxide concentration measurements along with mortality rates, a difference-in-differences model comparing counties near ports and those further away is estimated. The results find that in counties within 50 km of major ports, the collective phases of the IMO sulfur regulations reduced SO2 pollution by about 24% and total mortality rates of the 45+ population by 2.4%, with circulatory diseases driving most of the reduction. Taking into account higher fuel costs, the net benefit of the policy is estimated to approach $100 billion per year. The second chapter studies the 2015 phase of the IMO shipping fuel policy capping sulfur at 0.1%, using the port city of Vancouver as a case study. A fuzzy regression discontinuity design is estimated using local SO2 measurements and hospital admissions data to find a two thirds reduction in SO2 and 12% reduction in circulatory-related admissions upon the enactment of the policy. Together, the results of the first two chapters results shed additional light on the set of benefits associated with maritime fuel sulfur limit policies, which have continued to expand. The third chapter explores the impact of dramatic decreases in childhood lead exposure in Canada from the 1970s to the 1990s on rates of violent and property crime eighteen years later. Air lead and crime rate data from fourteen of Canada's largest cities are included in a difference-in-difference strategy that exploits city-level variation in the rate and timing of lead decline, with results showing that more than 10% of the observed 1992-2016 property crime decrease and 20% of the violent crime decrease can be attributed to the earlier declines in childhood lead exposure. This suggests a significant but unintended benefit to lead pollution control measures implemented in the latter half of the 20th century.
125 pages.
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Thesis advisor: Schnepel, Kevin
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