SPUR 2023: Didrik Wiig-Andersen, W’26

I have always been intrigued by the idea of uncovering new findings and curious about the prospect of pursuing a career in research. I decided to participate in SPUR over my freshman summer to get experience from conducting a full-scale research project, while getting insights into what a career in research might entail.

Recognizing the impacts of the ongoing climate crisis, I wanted my project to be a contributing factor to its mitigation. I was initially drawn to SPUR with the objective of uncovering the factors behind Norway’s significant adoption of electric vehicles. If these factors could be elucidated, they could serve as valuable resources for governments in their effort to increase the concentration of zero-emissions vehicles in their vehicle fleets. My exploration quickly suggested that Norwegian consumers were incentivized by government-imposed pricing policies which made EVs particularly salient over their combustion engine counterparts. Such pricing policies are widely adopted fiscal tools used globally by governments aiming to mitigate emissions across industries including road transport. However, very little empirical evidence assesses the impact of these pricing policies, limiting the insights currently available for policymakers in designing effective ones in the future. With this in mind, I shifted from my initial focus to a broader exploration of the effects of different pricing policies on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from road transportation.

Under the supervision of my research advisor, Assistant Professor of Finance Daniel G. Garrett, I performed a qualitative meta-analysis on both peer-reviewed and gray literature published between 2017 and 2023. This involved conducting five systematic database searches in an effort to identify existing literature that has assessed the impact of pricing policies on mitigating carbon dioxide emissions from road transportation. A manual selection process was applied to around four hundred articles, leaving 18 relevant studies for further analysis. Eight different carbon pricing policies were identified across forty-six distinct countries. Among my main findings: combining policies that impact consumer decisions in both vehicle selection and usage—reducing mileage driven and shifting the vehicle fleet to one with lower average emission rates—were seen to be the most effective in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In the case of Norway, which initially interested me, a stringent registration tax (a one-time payment upon first-time registration of a vehicle) for high-emitting vehicles (> 180gCO2/km), coupled with incentives such as access to bus lanes, special parking spots and a 25% tax exemption for zero-emissions vehicles, were the drivers behind the significant uptake of EVs.

Being the first time conducting a project of this scale, I was surprised by the amount of time required outside of the analysis and writing the paper itself. I recall the days I spent reading up on guidelines for performing a meta-analysis, rather than doing the analysis itself. I had envisioned the project as a significant run, but not quite a marathon. This led to early frustrations when I didn’t progress as rapidly as I had hoped, missing deadlines I had initially set. I realized that undertaking a project like this is as much about curiosity and the desire to uncover new findings as it is about patience and resilience.

Notably, my summer was not solely consumed by research. Staying at Penn allowed me to explore the East Coast for the first time, free from the usual academic commitments. I discovered my new favorite restaurant in Philadelphia, made my first visit to Boston, and explored new areas of New York where I hadn’t previously been. Furthermore, the flexibility of the research schedule enabled me to take on a teaching assistant role during the day, enriching my summer with additional experiences.

The project also allowed me to develop skills valuable beyond the world of research. Critical thinking became a daily exercise as I read through vast amounts of literature, determining the relevance and credibility of its findings to the research question I aimed to answer. Comparing findings across various pieces of literature honed my ability to discern trends and anomalies. I also enhanced my communication skills. Breaking down intricate concepts and presenting them in a coherent and accessible manner became an essential part of the process. The ability to translate sophisticated ideas into clear, relatable insights is a skill that will serve me well in future academic pursuits and any professional roles that require effective communication.

In sum, SPUR is an excellent opportunity for students interested in research. If you have a research question you would like to pursue, SPUR will provide you with the resources and guidance necessary to develop your very own research paper. The program is also a springboard to become more involved in the research community at Penn, introducing you to like-minded students and faculty specializing in your field of interest.

The Impact of Carbon Pricing Policies in Reducing CO2 Emissions from Road Transportation: A Meta-Analysis of Empirical Studies by Didrik Wiig-Andersen