Cash for clunkers isn't leading to fewer carbon emissions--at least not in Germany.The New York Times reports today on the 50,000 cars (at least) in Germany that have been traded in for cash rebates to put toward new vehicles with lower emissions. The only problem is that those cars are making their way to Africa and Eastern Europe through an organized crime network (although by the sounds of the few safeguards in place to prevent this behavior, one can imagine that the system is not that organized). Congress recently extended the U.S. program that also offers rebates of $3,500 to $4,500 for trade-ins of low fuel economy vehicles on the premise the buyer purchases a more efficient replacement (U.S. legislation requires that old engines are destroyed).
Old engines destroyed or not, it seems the cash for clunkers program is a classic example of a greenwashing boondoggle. First, what would life cycle analysis say in the comparison of energy required to destroy engines, manufacture new cars, and run a bureaucratic rebate machine versus the energy to run the old car. Second, it's a shrouding of the real issue: the pathetic fuel standards required by U.S. law. Note that the Obama administration proposed significantly lower standard than proposed by the Bush administration in 2008 (and are obviously lower than current standards in Europe, Japan, and China) and are currently in the midst of a lawsuit.
Don't look at this as an environmental program. It's support for the car manufacturers by artificially creating a demand for new cars.
First, what would life cycle analysis say in the comparison of energy required to destroy engines, manufacture new cars.
It would say that remelting metal and fabricating new parts from that metal costs 5-10% of the energy "investment" (how I shudder to use monetary terms for energy) involved in production from primary materials.
and run a bureaucratic rebate machine versus the energy to run the old car.
Social Security, Medicare, and the IRS: An Energetic Nosferatu? New Perspectives on Energy Waste in Government.
Is that a CATO institute publication you'd like to see?
Seriously, though. Increasing energy efficiency in the transport sector through come-ons and manufacturer mandates are the only politically acceptable tools we have nowadays to control emissions in the auto sector. If it weren't for the sticky "additionality" question, "Buy-to-crush" would be a preferred policy of mine all day, every day.
destroying the engines is simply a matter of pouring a smallish bottle of sodium silicate solution into the oil pan, then running the engine for a few minutes until it siezes up. very little energy required.
The cars are then recycled. the useful parts are sold. the rest is sold as scrap metal for recycling. we are pro-recycling, right?
My objection is that you are required to buy a NEW car to replace the clunker. so a gently used, fuel efficient car is not an option. seems wasteful.
the relevant quote from the article you linked is...
"But Germany neglected safeguards like the ones adopted in the United States, which require dealers to destroy old engines by injecting sodium silicate in place of oil. In Germany, dealers were required only to drop off the old cars at junkyards."
I agree 100% with you about the Cash for Clunkers program being a government boondoggle. It seems incredibly wasteful to destroy working cars, just to prop up the auto industry, and the incremental increase in mpg doesn't go far enough to justify this waste.
I could see an upside for a program that would actually encourage people to trade monster SUV's in for compact cars and/or hybrids, but the standards for the new vehicles should be MUCH higher than 18 or 22 mpg-- If it were up to me, I'd require that the upgrade vehicles must get at least 30 mpg, and I don't think that's being at all unreasonable.
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