Two years ago when we bought our Prius, my then second grader had an idea. He thought that everyone should have to give up their old cars and buy a hybrid. That, he believed, would solve the global warming problem that he was so worried about. Someone in Washington has stolen my son’s idea.
The New York Times reported last week that President Obama embraces “cash for clunkers” a government sponsored incentive program that would offer Americans cash for trading in their old, inefficient vehicles for new fuel efficient cars. The program would help both the environment and the ailing auto industry.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the reasons that we bought our Prius was because my husband’s company was offering a $5000 bonus to anyone who bought a vehicle that got 35 miles a gallon or better at the time. There was also a tax rebate – I believe it was $1800, don’t quote me on that figure, but we didn’t know about that when we made the decision.
The cash incentive went a long way in helping us to make the decision to trade in our Jeep Grand Cherokee for a Prius. The things is, we knew that when we traded in that Jeep, we might have been doing something to reduce our day to day personal impact on the environment, but the Jeep would still be out there. Someone would buy it, and it would keep on getting very low gas mileage.
This is what we needed to explain to our 7-year-old. Although his idea of everyone getting rid of their cars seemed like a good idea, in reality it would cause a lot of problems. We asked him, “If tomorrow everyone woke up with a brand new hybrid gift wrapped in their drive-way, what would they do with their old cars?”
He’s a pretty smart kid and it didn’t take long for him to figure out that gazillions of old cars rusting away, leaking motor oil into the soil was just about as big of a problem as their inefficiency when being used.
So my question to those who are proposing what has been dubbed the “cash for clunkers” bill is, “Are you as smart as my 7-year-old?”
According to MSNBC, Senator Susan Collins said that taking gas guzzlers off the road
would reduce our dependence on foreign oil, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate the economy.
So it seems as if the cars being turned in would be trashed, not reused. The bill being proposed in Congress estimates that up to one million vehicles will be taken off the road with a savings of up to “80,000 barrels of motor fuel a day by the end of the fourth year.”
According to the bill the cars must still be in driving condition to be turned in. So now my question is “What will they do with all those old cars?” One million old cars that still have many usable parts. Where will they go? Will the cars be stripped? Will their usable parts be reused? Will the metal be recycled? It seems these questions are unanswered in the bill.
There are other questions I have, too.
What’s to keep people from driving more now that it will cost less to drive their cars?
Will people who take public transportation to work start driving their high efficiency vehicles because it’s now much more reasonable to do it financially?
As someone who took advantage of cash incentives to buy a fuel efficient vehicle, it may seem hypocritical for me to ask these questions. But I’m asking them anyway. This program seems much more like a program to give the failing automobile industry even more money than a program intended to help the environment.
If improving the environment is really a major part of “cash for clunkers” then the disposal of the vehicles needs to be outlined in the bill. Without specifics, perfectly good materials that could be stripped from these vehicles will most likely end up in a landfill or worse yet, the cars could end up back on the road – maybe in another country – because the bill isn’t specific about the turned in cars.
Image: Danillo Prates under a creative commons license