Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 23, 2009


NPR - The Cash for Clunkers program was touted as a way to stimulate the flat-lining auto industry and to improve the environment. President Obama celebrated the program as a triumph. But while dealers could barely keep up with demand, questions remain about the plan's effect on Mother Earth.

"The program has been wonderful for the economy, but it's been only a middling success for greenhouse gas emissions," Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia Law School's new Center for Climate Change Law tells Weekend Edition host Liane Hansen.

To start, Gerrard says, "there was a provision in the law that automobiles over 25 years old could not be traded in. And that made no sense from an environmental standpoint. It was put there to help the dealers in used auto parts, but it really didn't help the environment at all."

Additionally, "the minimum required difference in the mileage for the old vehicles that were traded in and the new vehicles that were bought was just 4 miles per gallon - which is not much of a difference at all."

To make a bigger impact, the government could have required a greater mileage differential, Gerrard says. "You could have had a minimum of 15 mpg differential, which would have made a big difference."

People did buy cars with better average gas mileage, Gerrard says, "but it is still not a cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

"There are some calculations that it cost somewhere between $200 and $400 per ton of carbon dioxide reduced, depending on what assumptions are used," he says. "That's way above the market price of carbon and way above many, many other methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions."


Anonymous Cars4Charities said...

Cash for clunkers isn't a real benefit to the environment. In addition, while it did increase new car sales, it did it at the expense of used car dealers, auto parts stores, car repair shops, car donation charities, taxpayers and the poor.

August 24, 2009 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

....not just that, for this plan to help the environment, you have to consider the amount of carbon dioxide needed to produce a new car,including international sales meeting....

September 1, 2009 3:05 PM  

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