Media Blog

Times vs. Times on Cash for Clunkers

The editors of the Times opine on the environmental goodiness of cash-for-clunkers programs:

President Obama’s rescue plan for the automotive industry has given the presidential seal of approval to a little-noticed movement in Congress to clear the roads of gas-guzzling clunkers and replace them with more fuel-efficient cars. It’s an excellent idea, with clear benefits for the environment and — Mr. Obama hopes — beleaguered carmakers.

But there’s a right and wrong way to do it.

The right way is embodied in a bipartisan bill sponsored in the Senate by, among others, Charles Schumer, a Democrat of New York, with a companion bill in the House whose main sponsors include Steve Israel, also a Democrat of New York. The wrong way is embodied in a well-meaning but less-ambitious measure offered in the House by Betty Sutton, a Democrat of Ohio.

Not so fast says the “Green, Inc.” blog at NYTimes.com:

Such programs aim to raise the proportion of more efficient cars on the road. More sales of cleaner vehicles also could send signals to motor manufacturers to dedicate more resources to continue to improve engine technologies, aerodynamics and fuels.

But a growing chorus of critics say such programs may do little for the planet.

For starters, some environmentalists have worried that these programs could distract attention (and funds) from investments in public transport. And other critics say these programs could push people to drive more than they might have done otherwise.

The Vine blog at The New Republic suggested that such programs could end up generating more emissions from increased car manufacturing — and some critics have raised concerns that a “cash for clunkers” program in the United States would allow tax deductions for very heavy passenger vehicles that are made in America – like the Hummer and the Ford Expedition.

In one of his most recent articles, George Monbiot, an environmental campaigner, academic, and columnist for The Guardian in Britain, suggested that such programs have little to do with carbon-dioxide reduction, and amount to little more than “handouts for the car firms, resprayed green to fool the incautious buyer.”

Resprayed green to fool the incautious editorialist as well.

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