Junk’n the clunk

Originally posted 8/6/2009

Living truck on Lopez Island, WA

Some climate experts are skeptics of “Cash for Clunkers” as an effective solution for reducing CO2 pollution contributing to climate change. In an article by Seth Borenstein, AP science writer, he wrote that, “….shutting down the entire country—every automobile, every factory, every power plant—for an hour per year” would have the same effect as “Cash for Clunkers.” To climate experts, this is an incredibly insignificant decrease in CO2 emissions.

Borenstein wrote: “Environmental experts say the program—conceived primarily to stimulate the economy and jump-start the auto industry—is not an effective way to attack climate change.”

It’s also debatable how much the rebate program is actually stimulating the economy. Some economists are saying the program has not increased auto sales in the long-term, but rather has only shifted sales from the future to the present. Buyers who were already planning on purchasing cars just bought them sooner rather than later. Skeptics also argue that the clunker program is just prolonging our dependency on car transportation and foreign oil.

The demand for clunkers by car salvage businesses is also low. According to an article in the Miami Herald, engines make up 40 percent of the salvage value of a car, but the program has made it so that the engines from clunkers cannot be resold, making it unprofitable for businesses to make bids on clunkers to salvage the rest of the parts. Although some junkyard operators are taking advantage of the program, for many, the paperwork and the time it takes to take apart the cars is not worth the small profit.

In a Society of Environmental Journalists email, environmental reporter Muriel Strand said that perhaps a more environmentally focused program would give people money to afford the bike of their choice or public transit tickets.

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About devon

Devon Fredericksen is a freelance writer who specializes in environmental issues, social justice, and book reviews. Her work has been published in Indian Country Today Media Network, The Sheet, Eastside Magazine, The Planet, The Western Front, and Huxley College's book, Green Fire, a collection of environmental profiles. She holds B.A. degrees in environmental journalism and Spanish from Western Washington University. She currently lives in Bishop, CA.
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