An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Working Paper: Heavy-Duty Trucking and the Energy Efficiency Paradox

Paper Number: 2014-02

Document Date: 01/2014

Author(s): Heather Klemick, Elizabeth Kopits, Keith Sargent, and Ann Wolverton

Subject Area(s): Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Government Policy

Keywords: energy efficiency paradox; technology investment decisions; heavy duty trucking

Abstract: Economic theory suggests that profit maximizing firms should have an incentive to incorporate technologies into their products that are cost-effective, absent consideration of externalities. Even in the presence of uncertainty and imperfect information – conditions that hold to some degree in every market – firms are expected to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company owners and/or shareholders. However, simple net present value calculations comparing upfront costs of fuel-saving technologies to future savings suggest this is not always the case. This puzzle has been observed in a variety of contexts and is commonly referred to as the “energy efficiency paradox.” A growing number of empirical studies in the peer-reviewed literature examine why households may under-invest in energy efficiency. To our knowledge, far fewer studies examine whether similar undervaluation occurs on the part of businesses. While a variety of hypotheses could explain this behavior, lack of empirical evidence on why businesses do not always invest in seemingly cost-effective energy saving technologies limits our ability to judge whether and when a given hypothesis is likely to be valid. In this paper, we explore capital investment decisions within the heavy duty trucking sector for fuel-saving technologies. Given the lack of readily available data sources to study this industry, we collect information via a combination of focus groups and interviews. While the sample is not representative, we gain insight into what factors might explain apparent underinvestment in emission reducing technologies absent government regulation.

Published: Klemick, Heather, Elizabeth Kopits, Ann Wolverton, and Keith Sargent. 2015. "Heavy-duty trucking and the energy efficiency paradox: Evidence from focus groups and interviews," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 77: 154–166.

This paper is part of the Environmental Economics Working Paper Series.

You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.