The CARS program scraps cars by dumping sodium silicate into the crankcase and running the engine until it dies, ensuring the "clunker" is not resold. The idea is that the newer, higher mileage vehicle will have less environmental impact than the clunker.
The top car trade in for this program is the 1998 Ford Explorer, which get 15 MPG and generates about 12 tons of greenhouse gases each year. The Ford Escape Hybrid gets 32 MPG, consumes 11 barrels of oil each year and generates 5.7 tons of CO2 annually. Clearly, there's a net benefit in GHG emissions after only two years.
Proponents ignore four key facts, however:
- (1) The manufacture of the new vehicle by itself produces several tons of greenhouse gases, lengthening the GHG payback time. A '98 Ford is near the end of its life anyway and will probably be replaced within a couple of years, negating the environmental benefit of CARS.
(2) When it costs less to drive, people drive more and negate the GHG benefit almost completely. This facet of human behavior is inescapable.
(3) That '98 Ford is probably somebody's beater, the truck that's used on the weekends for trips to Home Depot. It's impact on the environment is probably already fairly minimal.
(3) 5.7 tons of GHG from the new car is still a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.
The CARS program has clearly benefited automakers and dealerships, some of which report double digit sales growth over July 2008. This is clearly good for them and their employees. Consider, however:
- (1) This program benefits only those who already own clunkers and can afford (or have the credit for) a new car.
(2) CARS represents a transfer of wealth from the American public to the auto industry.
(3) CARS represents a transfer of wealth from my children and grandchildren to middle aged motorists.
(4) CARS with its destruction of wealth is a perfect example of the "broken windows fallacy." If one broken window helps the local glass shop, why not break all the windows in town? If Cash for Clunkers is such a "win win" for everybody, why not replace the entire US automotive fleet with brand new cars?
(5) If Cash for Clunkers is such a great idea, why cap the rebate to $4500? Why not $10,000 from the government? How about $20,000? If these cash values are so absurd (and they are), then why is $4,500 okay?
The inequity of this program is stunning. Cash for Clunkers provides a substantial $4500 benefit to a small portion of the American public, while those most in need of transportation are left out.
- (1)Millions of American who don't own cars depend on public transportation to get to work just as transit systems are cutting service and hiking fares -- Cash for Clunkers does nothing for them while robbing them of their pay.
(2) The people buying new cars through Cash for Clunkers can mostly afford a new car anyway. The poor are left holding the bag.
(3) Because Cash for Clunkers has removed thousands of vehicles from the used car market, the price of used cars goes up for those working poor who are more likely to buy an older "clunker."
My U.S. Senators from California -- Boxer and Feinstein -- have already said they'll vote in favor of Cash for Clunkers, but I wrote to them anyway. Feel free to cut and paste whatever arguments above you think might help your case.