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Cash for Clunkers was Bad for Gaia and Other Living Things

January 5th, 2013 - 9:36 am

It’s almost as if Democrats just rush through legislation without really thinking about it first. Read:

According to the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), automobiles are almost completely recyclable, down to their engine oil and brake fluid. But many of the “Cash for Clunkers” cars were never sent to recycling facilities. The agency reports that the cars’ engines were instead destroyed by federal mandate, in order to prevent dealers from illicitly reselling the vehicles later.

The remaining parts of each car could then be put up for auction, but program guidelines also required that after 180 days, no matter how much of the car was left, the parts woud be sent to a junkyard and shredded.

Shredding vehicles results in its own environmental nightmare. For each ton of metal produced by a shredding facility, roughly 500 pounds of “shredding residue” is also produced, which includes polyurethane foams, metal oxides, glass and dirt. All totaled, about 4.5 million tons of that residue is already produced on average every year. Where does it go? Right into a landfill.

CARS was a bad law for other reasons, too. It hurt the poor by removing almost a million not-so-old used cars from circulation, raising used car prices. Poorer folks had to hold onto their older cars, longer. And it was bad for driver safety as well. Newer cars have more and better safety features. They also have newer brakes and all the rest. Cash for Clunkers raised the average age of the used car fleet, which again mostly affected the poor.

What it did do was provide a nice tax incentive for well-to-do people to trade up sooner than they might have, but without the safety and price benefits that would normally trickle down to used-car buyers.

It’s obvious what we need here, and that’s for Congress to pass a law against unintended consequences.

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