This was going to be an article about how the Obama administration’s “Cash for Clunkers” campaign is an assault on the poor — which it is, because it breaks the flow of newer used cars to poorer people — but, in gathering facts for it, I came to realize that another of the unintended consequences of this self-destructive law is that it, literally, will increase pollution.
Cash for Clunkers Pollutes
This is because the older a car, the worse its gas mileage. Not only in general, but also because cars tend to perform worse as they age.
Cash for Clunkers only rewards people for buying new cars, not for simply buying any car that got better gas mileage, regardless of its age. And it destroys the cars traded in, regardless of their own gas mileage.
This means that only more-prosperous people, who can afford new cars, are able to use the C4C program. They are, therefore, often trading in relatively nice, fuel-efficient cars. Often, they are even buying cars only a couple of miles per gallon more efficient.
Meanwhile, what about the people with older cars, which are much less fuel efficient?
Simple: They are having the nicer, more efficient used cars they WOULD have bought destroyed. Leaving them in a pollutive car longer than if the C4C never happened in the first place.
Since the older the car, the more pollutive, this has the net effect of WORSE pollution, not better.
Someone buys a new car that gets two miles per gallon better. His used car is destroyed, instead of going to someone who owns an older car that gets TEN miles per gallon worse. The net result is an LOSS of 8 MPG.
Take this real-life example:
- Dude A has a 16 MPG truck
- Trades it in for an 18 MPG truck, Obama gives him $3500 to save 2 MPG
- Dude B has a Chevrolet 1500, that gets 9 MPG
- Dude B finds he cannot afford to buy to buy a 16 MPG truck, because prices have gone up so much.
- He keeps his old truck.
Net result? The Obama plan gets credit for a whole 2 MPG increase, but actually produced a 7 MPG decrease.
“But this isn’t a good example”, some greenie shouts, “people were trading in SUVs for compact cars!”
While that would be a good example of the program increasing traffic deaths, it’s not actually true in this case.
This is because the initial stats claiming it were a contextual lie.
The actual numbers, in fact, show that the most people traded their vehicles in for SUVs and trucks.
But that’s not all…there is a large “carbon footprint” around manufacturing a new car. Statistically, it should be impossible for the above +2 MPG truck to save enough, in pollution, to make up for being built, over keeping the used truck. Same with non-carbon pollution, manufacturing versus microscopically worse gas mileage. Keeping an older car can actually reduce pollution.
Of course that wasn’t the original point of this article:
…and Causes Poverty
In their attack on consumer choice, the Obama administration attacked consumerism itself, which is a very politically-correct thing to do. But the fact is that consumerism makes our economy more efficient, and benefits the poor.
As the best-off consumers buy better things, items out of favor — whether used or just old models — become less expensive, allowing poorer people to buy progressively better stuff for the same prices.
In the case of cash for clunkers, the Obama administration broke this:
- Nice used cars will now be in shorter supply, which will raise the relative prices of the remaining nice used cars.
- This will make it harder for poorer people to afford to upgrade.
- This will trickle all the way down to the very poorest, who will soon find that their ability to buy some minimal car AT ALL, is affected.
- That can mean the difference between getting to a job, and getting out of poverty, or being trapped indefinitely.
So aside from the many other unintended consequences of this program, and there are many, the program has actually set the scene for poor people to have an even harder time affording cars, a vital tool for earning more money.
What’s more, most of the sales are ones that would have happened, anyway.
Didn’t Even Help
Speaking of poverty, the program did not actually stimulate car buying, to help the economy, especially did not help the American car companies (who did not deserve it, anyway), and did not even get those new buyers to save gas mileage!
Because most of the buying was just what economists call “front loading”; the choice to buy a car was simply moved ahead…once the plan ends, car purchasing will decline to an abnormal low from where it would have been, as most people who could have anticipated buying a car in the next year or two will have simply bought ahead, at taxpayer expense.
The net result, therefore, will be the same amount of economic activity, but crammed hastily into a shorter period of time, and with the economy-damaging side-effect of government spending having required government debt or taxpayer burden.
“Hasty” seems to be a government motto, of late.
Oh, and the “helping American car companies”? The people who took advantage of Cash for Clunkers mostly bought Japanese cars.
In all, these factors mean that even this most feel-good of big government programs, Cash for Clunkers, has had the overall effect of increasing pollution and harming the poor, by removing perfectly good, modern used cars from the road, trapping poorer people in much older cars, for longer…while either increasing pollution through manufacturing more new cars, or just causing future economic turmoil by using economy-depressing public finance to encourage people to simply buy their cars a few months early, all at one time.
It’s bad enough that new gas mileage standards will cost the already-struggling US automakers at least $21,000,000,000 per year, which they will pass on to YOU, either in as consumers or taxpayers, but they also can TRIPLE the chance of your family dying in a car crash.
The new CAFE standards require automakers to have a much higher average gas mileage within a few years. But since automakers can’t force people to buy smaller cars, this means they must stop making larger cars, in order to force the “average” bought to be more efficient.
GM, for example, is going to literally stop selling the Caprice, one of its most popular and longest-made cars, to regular people…because it’s large. It will only offer those to “fleet” buyers, like police, taxi, and limo companies. Each company will also make the cars it does offer smaller and lighter. You will have no choice but to buy these, if you want a new car.
And, of course, you will be forced to finance this change through your taxes, with the new Cash for Clunkers law, while Cap and Trade (if you let it pass) will cause more car shrinkage and insane tax burden on you than CAFE and Cash for Clunkers combined.
Forced Green = Death
Yet no expert seriously denies that smaller cars are far more dangerous than large cars. They may refuse to use those exact words, but crash test results like this are not just normal, but a question of physics.
When a car hits something, its size, weight, and the materials out of which it’s made decide how much harm will come to its passengers. This is true even when an immobile object like a fence or tree…but it’s most true when hitting a moveable object, like a deer or another vehicle. These factors determine how much of the energy goes to moving the object you hit, and how much to crushing your body.
Even if your car has a rigid steel frame (Smart cars) and crumple zones (European cars), the change in speed from hitting a heavier object will snap your body around and kill you.
So when Barak Obama and John McCain attempt to force through standards that will effectively ban the building of larger vehicles for families, they are condemning many people to death. But, they say, this is worthwhile in order to force greater fuel economy on regular people.
Efficiency is more important than human life.
In 2004, a study by Dynamic Research, Inc. found a a 20% change in the weight difference between two vehicles in a collision produced a 15% change in mortality. The motivation, of course, was to show that people needed to be forced to drive lighter vehicles; punish SUV owners by reducing the side of their vehicles…but a more rational way to look at it is that, since large vehicles (and deer, and trees) will not cease to exist, a 20% reduction in the weight of new cars means a 15% increase in the death of families riding in them.
Your Death: A Risk They’re Willing to Take
Not only will there continue to be industrial vehicles, tractor-trailor rigs, and other necessary vehicles on the road to hit your shrinking family car, and not only will the deer you hit not be on a corrresponding diet, but bear in mind that the “fleet vehicles” the politicians use are effectively exempted. So Obama, McCain, government officials, and their loved ones will still be safe in their gigantic limosines, massive taxis, and ponderous police cars, to collide with and crush we mere mortals.
Statistically, you are twice as likely to die in a small car than a larger one, during a crash…THREE times as likely, if it’s a single-car crash. That’s right; you don’t have to hit an SUV to die from driving a small car: The more your car weighs, the more it can push back against the object it’s hitting, reducing the speed at which your body is jerked in an accident.
In fact, in a recent test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, smaller vehicles even proved doomsday devices in crash tests against mere mid-level vehicles. It’s not just that a smart car will kill you if it collides with an SUV, but even a normal sedan…and when the new laws are in effect, the normal sedans being made then will be death traps against one made today.
So if a Cap and Trade politician’s limosine crashes into your family car, a few years from now, you (not he) will be far more likely to die than today…but that’s ok, it’s a chance he’s willing to take.