Cash for Clunkers: More Immoral Environmentalism?

Update (Friday afternoon): According to the Wall Street Journal, the House has voted to pour another $2 billion into Cash for Clunkers.

Once a month, I volunteer at our church's benevolence office, where we interview people in need of financial assistance and try to determine whether and how we can help them. Most of these folks are unemployed or under-employed, and often we find that they lack basic everyday transportation that would allow them to get and keep a job. Midland's bus system, although much improved, does not always provide the flexibility of routes and schedules that allow people to count on them for their work commutes.

Which brings us to "Cash for Clunkers" which, as you already know, is a federal government program designed to reward people for trading in their old gas guzzlers for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles. CARS (Car Allowance Rebate System) was funded with $1B of your and my money, and will theoretically remove at least 220,000 older cars from the roads (assuming the maximum allowance of $4,500). That sounds fine and dandy, although it still represents only about 1% of the total number of passenger vehicles in the country and the incremental overall gains in fuel economy will be trivial.

Setting aside the issue of taxpayer money being used yet again to try to influence private behavior, I find it sad, if not immoral, that all the cars being traded in will simply be crushed* and consigned to a junkyard. There are a lot of people in the country for whom ownership of a "clunker" could mean a chance to climb out of a poverty-stricken or abuse-laden situation.

Yet again, we see that actions taken in the name of environmentalism have negative consequences on the human condition. Similar to (although I'd argue not quite as heinous) diverting corn to make fuel rather than food, these actions argue that a future "greater good" is being served, but the hypocrisy is that human beings are being harmed now.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that those who are able to take advantage of CARS are doing bad things. Not at all. I'd use it if I could; after all, it's my money they're handing out. I simply wish the program had a better ending.

*Wonder how many of these "clunkers" will actually get scrapped, rather than ending up in, say, Mexico?

12 Comments

And now, not only are they scrapping the clunkers, they have stopped the program 6 days into it.
http://wcbstv.com/consumer/cash.clunkers.success.2.1108544.html

I don't think the purpose of this was to aid the environment, but rather to stimulate new car sales. By scrapping the clunkers, I think the environment will actually be hurt. And I don't think anybody "in charge" really cares.

I wonder if Al Gore is trading in his 100 ft. houseboat on something a little more eco-friendly. Like a rowboat.

http://www.greendaily.com/2008/09/16/al-gore-draws-flack-for-his-100ft-houseboat/

I have to admit I was excited when I learned that I would qualify for the CARS program. Then when I saw that the poor Pathfinder would be forever gone I had second thoughts. Also, even though $4500 towards a car would be wonderful, I think I would end up owing a lot more on a brand new car than trading in on a good "gently owned vehicle".

I can't imagine you guys in a pickup.

Eric, I've heard it mentioned that getting rid of all the 'clunkers' will make it harder on folks who can't afford new cars, to find used parts for their old ones.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on July 31, 2009 9:10 AM.

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