Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cash for Clunkers: epic fail

I'm not even going to touch on the most obvious reasons why the Cash for Clunkers program is an environmental failure. If you want a quick overview, you can read Ruchi's post on the matter.

Basically, what I see as the main issue with this program is that it is only applicable to cars 25-years-old and younger. So, any car built before 1984 can not be traded-in. Now, before you get all excited, I do realize that many cars manufactured in the early 80s are more fuel efficient than many of the modern behemoths currently on the road. But, those cars wouldn't be eligible because they are too fuel efficient. However, that does leave 5 million of the other stinkers ineligible and still on the road.

One huge issue is that cars built before the mid 1970s didn't have catalytic converters and, in many cases, spew out hundreds of times the amount of particulate matter than even the most fuel inefficient beast produces today.

From the LA Times:
For example, a 1965 Chevrolet Malibu, when new, produced 400 times the smog-forming pollutants that a new 2010 Malibu produces, said John Swanton, an air pollution specialist with the board. Thus, an old Malibu driven only 1,000 miles per year produces as much pollution as a new Malibu would in 400,000 miles.

Why is it that the cars that really need to be pulled off the road aren't eligible for this program? Well, it seems that the classic car lobby managed to get older cars excluded. I don't understand the impetus for this lobbying effort, I'm sure there is one that makes sense to somebody, but frankly, the people I know that drive their classic cars around regularly really need some serious emissions control (but that's another story entirely).

I believe most of this has something to do with the aftermarket parts manufacturers not wanting their customer base removed. Unfortunately, the result is that the guy that drives a beat-up 1981 Dodge pickup can't take advantage of this program, even though his car doesn't exactly qualify as a "classic car" and, realistically, isn't spending a whole lot tricking out his ride.

So, is this program devised to help get fuel inefficient cars off the road, or really, just to move new cars off the lot? Methinks that if this program were really about fuel efficiency and pollution they would have told the classic car lobbying group to go stick it up their hotrod. You can thank the government for another auto bailout, this one more back-handed than usual.


Kate said...

I'm not even sure it was a back-handed auto bail-out. They didn't even try to hide the real purpose in my mind. It's ridiculous. Maybe that's because I'm the daughter of a retired GM employee (management, non-union) who has lost many of his retirement benefits including health insurance supplements and long-term care insurance. Not to mention a number of other things like my mom's health insurance. Where do you go looking for new long-term care insurance at 67? My parents continue to be nervous about his pension.

Cash for clunkers was more of a joke than a failure.

I'm not usually so vehement about these things. I'm a political scientist and can sit back and be objective, but as someone who has family members who have been directly affected by GM's bad business decisions it's hard to watch bailouts like this happen.

Sam said...

Slightly OT:

While the program infuriates me to no end, I was pleased to read one Portland bike shop's Cash for Clunkers program.

TDP said...

There were several other plans proposed in congress which would have helped out more people, and truely rid the country of polluting cars. They did not pass. This cash for clunkers is a blatent move to get the auto plants manufacturing cars again, until the cash runs out.

The cap and trade bill also has within it yet another bailout to the auto makers. In the fine print they have allowed employees who have lost their job due to the implementation of the bill to get 2 years of income at 70% of their annual pay- so they can be retrained, of course, over two years. Can anyone else see that this is a continuance of the highly controversial and bloated GM jobs bank - but its inclusion was probably the price that had to be paid to get the unions to back cap and trade. This is all my bias though, for 70% of an autoworker salary is more than 100% of anything I ever made annually.
Other bailouts forthcoming for the automakers is the US government taking responsibility for the pensions and health care of former autoworkers. This will be more manageable when all US citizens are included to spread the cost and the risk.
I want universal health care. We as a country need universal health care for other industries and corporations are not far behind the automakers in collapsing under the burden of supplying coverage and medical pensions. Its just sad that America, as Winston Churchill once said, does do the right thing, after everything else has been tried.

Anonymous said...

I was really excited about this program. I planned on trading in a 1998 that gets 22 mpg and has HIGH Milage for a smaller more fuel effient car for commuting. The government says its not ineffient enough! Which really sucks because I will now drive it into the ground but will use more fuel to do so...its a flawed program in that respect. Here was a chance to get something with bad milage off the road, pay more property taxes to my town and do something good for the environment and save myself a few coins in the process. So now I'll use more fossil fuels, pay less property taxes on my clunker and do bad by the environment....really really flawed.

Farmer's Daughter said...

As I said on Ruchi's post and on my own blog, it's the economics that really bothers me. My car would qualify, but I can't afford a car payment so I'm not trading it in. However, I think a lot of people in my position would see the $4500 as too good to pass up (it's killing me to pass it up!) and would go for it, resulting in more repos because people can't make their payments.

Cash for clunkers is government greenwashing to stimulate the auto industry.

sara l said...

Yes, blatant auto bailout, but my thought was cars more than 25 years old have very little worth. ie- my mid 90's Jeep is probably worth a few thousand, where a mid 70's pickup doesn't have much worth. So the govenment is giving me a rebate for giving up my polluting car that has some worth.

Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

someone i know took advantage of the cash for clunkers by trading in his gas-guzzling SUV for another SUV that gets even worse gas mileage. go figure. and he's always telling me i'm hurting the planet because i eat meat. grrr.

The Mom said...

I didn't realize they were even trying to call it anything other than a bailout. The biggest issue will be when its all over and nobody is buying cars again. Its like the sugar kick you get and then feel worse when it wears off. These bailouts are just a bunch of sugar for the American people. We feel better for a few minutes and then much worse.

Robj98168 said...

I was hoping to trade my 66 Valiant in on a NEV- no luck as my 66 Valiant does not count! The only car I have that counts is the 95 Swift- to fuel effeciant (sp) cant find a new car with better gas mileage except a prious. Ans I think it is more sustainable to keep my paid off car with 40 MPG than to buy one and make payments for 50MPG

Elizabeth B said...

@greenonblue, the mind boggles.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

It's a move to get new cars off the lot. Think about it. The people that feel financially secure in their jobs to get rid of their "clunker" are usually getting rid of their 2nd car not the primary gas guzzler and they can replace it with a non hybrid SUV! Furthermore the car, that has some good years left in it can could be donated to charity or sold to a family that can't afford a new car, has to be destroyed as part of the program to prevent fraud. And they manner in which the car much be rendered inoperable means that it can't be recycled or sold for scrap metal. That clunker has to be landfill fodder. What's so environmentally friendly about that?

SongbirdSisters said...

I agree that this program has it's faults. However, I was able to take advantage of it. I traded in my only car, a 1995 Explorer w/ 250K miles on it. It was starting to fall apart and was going to need extensive repairs to keep it road-worthy this winter in my cold and snowy climate. I traded it in on a Subaru Forester which gets 7-10 more mpg than I was getting which, for my 40 mile round trip commute, is substantial fuel and cost savings. In addition, because this car is safer for my kids and I, my insurance rates will lower as well. As a single mother who is responsible for 2 small children the majority of the time, the safety factor cannot be measured in carbon outputs or dollars.