As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cash For Clunkers - An Innovative Idea From Washington? The Devil You Say!

I support a 'cash for clunkers' program not because it would help the US auto industry and increase consumer spending. It would really reduce emissions at the low end and green the fleet. And I don't buy the criticism that nobody would participate in the program. Right now, because of the economic downturn, we are seeing cars that would have otherwise been junked remain on the road. Those are precisely the cars targeted. Allowing people to turn them in for cash they can use to buy more efficient vehicles would reverse that bad outcome and have an environmental impact besides. It's benefited Germany, France, Italy and other countries who have adopted the policy. And it looks like the House struck a deal moving this forward.

In a major advance for the so-called “cash for clunkers” program, House negotiators reached a tentative agreement on a plan that would award vouchers of up to $4,500 to vehicle owners who trade in their old cars for more fuel efficient models.

Under the House plan, a car trade-in that improves fuel efficiency by at least 10 miles per gallon would qualify for a $4,500 voucher, as would the trade-in of a small truck that improves efficiency by 5 miles per gallon. The new vehicle must have a minimum fuel efficiency rating of 22 miles per gallon for cars and 18 miles per gallon for small trucks.

A car trade-in that improves fuel efficiency by at least four miles per gallon would qualify for a $3,500 voucher, as would a small truck trade-in with a two mile per gallon improvement.

Those fuel efficiency ratings don't sound like a lot, but improving 10mpg to a low-mileage car saves a lot more gas than improving 10mpg to a high-mileage car, and essentially this program is designed to do just that.

Negotiators plan to stick this inside the larger energy bill, where its benefits can weigh on auto-state lawmakers who might otherwise be tempted to reject the whole thing. So while "cash for clunkers" doesn't solve the problem of reducing fuel consumption completely, it doesn't have to do the whole lift by itself. And as fuel economy standards are finally set to rise, this proposal would actually get those more fuel-efficient cars out the door and onto the road. Hopefully this will help the larger energy bill pass.

...As for increasing biofuels, some harm more than help, but hopefully this can spur innovation so that we can run cars on banana peels like in Back To The Future.

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