In the minds of politicians and rent-seekers, the cash-for-clunkers program was so successful that it deserved even more taxpayer money.
Pols got to strut their green credentials. Car makers got to sell cars, via yet another subsidy. Consumers got free cash for new cars they otherwise wouldn’t buy.
It’s all so socially responsible and win-win – except for cash-strapped taxpayers, who got saddled with still more debt. Another big loser of course is the antiquated notion that public policies should be based on sound science and economics.
An ice-cold bucket of reality is in order – before the next clunker idea comes along. Here are a few of the more obvious problems with pulling the plug on grandma cars.
The “high-polluting” cars that taxpayers are paying to get off the road already have 90% lower emissions than 1970-era models. So the pollution reductions are truly marginal, as are the gas savings.
Any gas savings will be more than offset by the latest round of oil and gas lock-ups that Congress and the White House are already engineering. So more oil imports are on the way.
Every “clunker” has to be rendered totally inoperable. Sodium silicate gets poured into engines to freeze their components, then they’re crushed into bundles of scrap.
That means some 750,000 perfectly good cars never make it to used car lots. People who can’t afford the average $24,000 new car price have to buy a new car anyway. Used car dealers and buyers have dwindling numbers of cars to bargain for. Repair shops lose business.
Even worse, trashing all these cars is a monumental waste of precious resources – and all the energy and effort it took to extract metallic ores, hydrocarbons and other raw materials from the Earth, process and refine them, create alloys and plastics, and turn them into engines, chasses, windows, tires and interiors.
Every step in that process took enormous amounts of energy – and emitted vast quantities of carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases and real pollutants. There is absolutely no way that these emissions and energy will ever be recouped by any savings the replacement cars might conceivably generate.
It’s like spending $720,000 for photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the Denver Nature and Science Museum. The panels would certainly reduce conventional electricity bills. But it would take 110 years to save enough on those bills to pay for the panels – and the panels would only last 30 years.
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