Mobility  |  Publications  |  01.02.2013

The true costs of automobility: external costs of car use in EU-27

This study commissioned by the Greens/EFA estimates the magnitude of the hidden costs of car mobility (such as costs arising from noise and pollution) and the ways in which these costs are currently being financed.

Transport is an important part of daily life and of our society. Without any doubt, transport creates huge benefits. As in all aspects of our life, we have to differentiate between the perspective of the individual (a transport user) and that of society (which is the set of all other people, all future times (generations) and all other regions (countries).

This study highlights the difference between the individual´s perspective, where the benefits of transport are huge and the perspective of society, where it is important to be aware that the individual surplus of benefits over costs does not automatically mean that benefits to society are higher than the costs for society. 

The study asserts that under real world conditions, it is completely sufficient to establish a process of constant monitoring and estimating external effects, to estimate them “as well as possible” at every time – and to adjust the price signals to the users accordingly. It is obvious that we will never arrive in a perfect state of true prices (where price signals include fully internalised costs and benefits) but it is absolutely necessary that we try to achieve less inaccurate prices constantly year after year.

The results of this report can (and should) be used for political discussions and for decision making at European level. The results identify fields in which the market mechanism in transport is not working currently; here, political action is needed. The importance of this conclusion cannot be overestimated; this is the crucial and essential key to a fair and efficient economy and society.

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