With both our economy and our climate in crisis mode right now, the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ CARS program took aim at both reducing climate change emissions and spurring investment in America’s manufacturers. The program came to a close on Monday and has been deemed ‘wildly successful’ by Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Dealers submitted 690,114 rebate claims totaling $2.88 billion dollars. 84% of people traded in their ‘clunker’ trucks for fuel efficient cars like Toyota Corrolla, Honda Civic and the Toyota Camry. The switch from older trucks to more efficient cars has resulted in a 58% improvement in MPG among the nearly 700,000 participants of the CARS program. That is going to save consumers a lot of gas and a lot of money! There are many benefits to a program like CARS that highlight what Americans may be able to expect from comprehensive climate legislation.
- Job Creation – by putting the right incentives in place that encourage greener technologies, jobs are created that can’t be outsourced. Americans need to build the technology needed to meet our ambitious climate goals. The CARS program claims to have saved or created over 42,000 jobs and boosted economic growth for the third quarter of 2009 by 0.3-0.4 percentage points.
- Consumer Savings – though there is an upfront cost to cleaner technologies (those participating in the CARS program were only subsidized for part of the value of the new vehicle, the rest they had to spend out of pocket), savings will be reaped over the long run. An average vehicle’s lifespan is about 13 years and 145,000 miles – so one vehicle traded in through the CARS program will use about 3,354 fewer gallons (and emit about 65,600 fewer pounds of CO2!) than their clunker predecessors over that lifetime. Assuming gas costs $3.00 over that lifespan, that is a savings of more than $10,000!
- Environmental Benefits – the benefits to the environment from reducing emissions, be it at the tailpipe or at a smokestack, are multifaceted. By reducing climate change pollutants, we are also improving local air quality (which improves human health), preventing the release of toxic materials that seep into our water and food (which also improves human health), and reducing the need to drill or mine for fossil fuel resources.
The CARS program was a success because it was an easy to understand initiative that benefited consumers and the environment. Many of the proposed initiatives in the current climate legislation provide this same kind of win-win. If only the Waxman-Markey bill had four-wheels, a steering wheel, and surround sound stereo, I don’t think that we would still be debating it’s merits in congress… Vroom Vroom! (Image Courtesy of the AP)