Cash for Clunkers: Government incentives for consumption
Tuesday, August 25, 2009 - 22:05
Yesterday was the end of the "Cash for Clunkers" program. The roughly $3 billion program gave individuals up to $4,500 in government vouchers to trade their old cars for brand new ones with better gas mileage. When I first heard about this, I thought it sounded great. I was blinded by the idea of millions of gas hogging, pollution-happy vehicles being sent to their deaths. The more I have been looking into this program, however, the more I am beginning to see what a ridiculous facade it was.
The whole program seemed highly green-washed. The bill was passed under the premise that it would not only jumpstart the U.S. economy, but would reduce carbon emissions, as well. It seemed to hoard in public support over its Earth-saving illusion. I really don't understand how anyone could ever find this idea to be environmentally friendly. The whole concept of "Cash for Clunkers" is unsustainable. It claimed to be an effort to improve fuel economy by getting old cars off the road. What about all the waste created from the old cars? The bill ordered the entire vehicle, including the engine and drive train, to be crushed and shredded. I seriously doubt that savings from improved miles per gallon would exceed the costs involved in destroying and disposing of the "clunkers."
Not only does this program seem incredibly wasteful, the actual improvements to fuel economy are minimal. The law's improved mileage requirements were so weak that it gave out subsidies for the purchase of cars that get as little as 15 mpg. In order to receive a voucher, people had to purchase a vehicle with only a 2 mpg increase over the old vehicle. Inevitably, people began trading in old gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks for newer, slightly less gas guzzling SUVs and trucks.
I don't understand how the government could spend so much money subsidizing new car purchases instead of giving incentives for the upgrade, repair and maintenance of older vehicles. The process of manufacturing a new car is a much greater polluting process than driving around a car already headed toward its death bed. What type of supposed environmentally-friendly policy encourages such mass consumption and waste? Isn't our society's obsession with conspicuous consumption already making a mess out of our world? Now our government is subsidizing it.
"Cash for Clunkers" seems to be a good deal for struggling car dealers, but a bad deal for the environment. As far as I'm concerned, the program comes at a high cost, both economically and environmentally.
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