What a clunker!

Did you know you that Uncle Sam will give you $3500-$4500 dollars for trading in your late model low mileage wheels for something shiny new? The cash for clunker program has officially launched. The details are here…get it before it’s gone! The program ends November 1 or when the money runs out.

The Feds are putting up $1 billion dollars to encourage what they’re positioning – at least partially – as an environmental program encouraging trade-ins to higher mileage automobiles. As one senator reportedly said, “This is really a three-fer — good for the economy, good for consumers, and good for the environment.”

So how cost effective is this program as an environmental tool? Well….I did the math, and assuming you trade in that beloved 18 mpg college car for 25 miles per gallon of shiny newness, you’ll save 1500 gallons over the life of the car. Not too shabby so far!

But let’s keep going…that 1500 gallons equates to 15 tons of climate changing CO2, which means each ton of avoided CO2 costs $230. Ouch! ClimatePath CO2 avoidance projects, including fuel conversion, wind energy, and forestry are in the $10-20 per ton range. Suddenly this cash for clunkers program is looking pretty pricey.

Even worse, the carbon content of making a new car is very likely more than 15 tons of CO2…the steel alone is easily one third of that. If anything, we need to focus on making cars last longer AND more fuel efficient.

So with an opportunity to invest another billion in solar, wind, CFLs, water heaters, public transportation, or any number of more cost effective programs designed to reduce emissions, why focus on new cars? I think you know the answer.

Clearly the auto industry needs help, but the bizarre twist of this program is that it only rewards those who are driving low mileage vehicles, and the necessary mileage improvement is pretty minimal. Let’s hope the Goldman Sachs folks don’t hear about it…I’m sure they’ll find a way to get in on the action!

How about extra cash for your hybrid car, if you buy a new one? Creating a robust secondary market for used hybrids would probably do a lot more to help things than this program will.

Photo copyright mccaig at istockphoto.com.

27 comments

LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr6 years ago

Interesting, thank you.

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LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr6 years ago

Interesting, thank you.

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LMj Sunshine
James merritt jr6 years ago

Interesting, thank you.

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LT A.
Past Member 9 years ago

This program is popular because it gives away money, and for no other reason. It is pure greenwashing because it actually encourages resource depletion. I voted for Obama, but since that day, all he has done is flap his pretty lips and encourage legislation like this that helps big business and amounts to nothing more than feel-good happy horse dung. With a MINIMUM (instead of a maximum) limit on the age of the traded-in car, and a maximum limit on the income of the recipients (at perhaps double the federal poverty line), perhaps the program would have limited merit, but it still would not be green. With these reasonable car age and income limits in place, paying people of limited means to junk their old cars by offering generous payments for OTHER energy saving items, such as insulation, efficient roofs, doors, windows, and appliances, HVAC repairs and upgrades, solar electric or water heating systems, and a host of other items in return would have been even better. Newer, shinier cars burning a tiny bit less petroleum are NOT the solution. Crushing viable cars before their use (versus fuel consumption) offsets the resource waste of their manufacture is also not an answer, as the article points out. This program is simply a pleasant fraud. I fear our President is becoming one himself. The fact that Congress is a fraud is beyond dispute.

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Michael Knight
Michael Knight9 years ago

America Continues to Waste over 70% of the Energy it Consumes.
Our hedonist energy waste is culturally pervasive, and abominable !
(1) 100's of millions of lights burn unnecessary during the day and night.
(2) We over heat and over cool our homes, businesses, offices,
schools, churches, etc... (government buildings waste the most).
(3) Recycling is inadequate, over packaging is the norm,
our landfills are busier than ever. (Plastics are the ultimate polluter).
(4) Most Americans do not minimize their driving; road congestion is horrendous.
(5) America's incessant obsession with road construction is the ultimate contradiction.

The only way to eliminate over demand and energy waste is by using the economic impact of taxing energy. Crude oil must be taxed at $200 per barrel(55 gal) and 'offset' by making Federal Income Tax begin at $60k. Only with a substantial and tangible dollar reward/consequence, will Americans care to conserve. Until the price of gas is $6 to $8 per gallon, Americans will not reduce their over consumption and energy waste.
In the mean time, the USA continues its hedonist energy waste and gives away its economic and political wealth to the Middle East via OPEC. Know that Islamic dominated OPEC is glad to allow supply and demand market forces to drive energy prices to $8/gallon.
Ford and General Motors are almost bankrupt, yet continue to do business as usual. The world cannot continue to support all the automakers. We are running o

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Claire M.
Claire M9 years ago

I was watching one of our good American car company commercials the other day and after all the trouble and keeping them from going bankrupt they were trying to sell me the same old crap. Apparently the Japanese are the only one's taking emissions seriously and really working on solutions. The Nissan leaf hits our markets next year. I expect to see the same ol companies begging for money again soon after. We need tax breaks for buying electric or hybreds not just go buy a new car that is prolly almost as bad as your old one. Also low mileage? Its high mileage cares that need to get off the street more urgently.

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Nancy Bolerjack
nancy Bolerjack9 years ago

to each his own..we were able to leave our "going brain dead-jerk and pull" vehicle behind and leave with a 4door NEW car that not only will take us safely down the road, but gets 40 mpg..happy traveling...

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Antonio S.
Antonio Mendes9 years ago

The american motors are too big! It´s time to the USA learn something with the European Car Industry...

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Pam Rhia S.
.9 years ago

This program is legitimate and it does work, but you need to have a dealership that knows what they are doing to help you wade through the paperwork and get the voucher. We bought another vehicle a little over a year ago, and we began in getting the voucher. At that time the vouchers were not for as much as they are now. WE could not get but around 2,000.00. Also, my suggestion is that you look at the dealerships for a good, fairly new used car. When we were looking the cars had to be no more than 3 years old. So, if you can find a great deal on a used car, and then apply the voucher to that, you can also find yourself being able to use the voucher. Just like anything else in government there is paperwork that has to be done correctly and turned in on time, plus of course it will probably take a month or more before you actually receive the voucher. So, if you can wade through the red tape, the vouchers are there to help. What happened to us is that we could not find a car like we wanted and in the year range. So, the dealership actually gave us the 2,000.00 for a "trade in" (by the way you DO NOT get "trade-in" plus the voucher". The voucher takes the place of whatever the trade-in would have been from the government. So, we got a great used car, at a great price, even though in the end we did not need the voucher.

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Alfred Donovan
Past Member 9 years ago

The same thing is happening in the UK the government is offering £2,000 to anyone who trades in a car of 10 years old or more in order to replace it with a more environmental friendly model.This has already increased the sale of new cars and made the motor industry very happy.Which I think is the real purpose of the sceme.

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