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Author: salaryguru Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Recommended Fools Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 60186  
Subject: Re: cahs for clunkers - disaster of a program Date: 1/6/2013 6:40 PM
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I really don't know how to grade the CARS (or Cash for Clunkers) program as far as it's success or failure, but this is the latest right wing echo chamber nonsense. I think it started with Breitbart and shows up in all of the regular brain-dead teabagger circles. I do know that this article is very misleading and, in places, non-factual. Let's look at the claims one-by-one. I place my comments, corrections and actual data in parenthesis after each claim from the article.

The article starts off telling us that CARS produced tons of unnecessary waste (I'm not sure what this means or how to evaluate it. Is there something known as "necessary waste"? How much of this "unnecessary waste" would have been produced [immediately or eventually] in the absense of CARS? The article definitely overestimates this in every statement it makes.)

The program . . . did little to curb greenhousee gas emissions (This is probably true, but it had a positive impact that was established by the guidelines of the program. People could trade in cars with 18 mpg or less for cars with at least 4 mpg better gas mileage. So, in every case we exchanged old cars with low mpg for more efficient one - in every case. The actual gains were quantified by the EPA and I will provide that data later in this post.)

The article states that "autos are almost completely recyclable". (hmmmm. . . everything is 100% recyclable. But many things cost more to recycle than the end product is worth or cost more to recycle than it costs to gain that material from another source. Although cars are also completely recyclable, actual recycling of automobile parts is not currently done for 100% of the car and probably won't be for many years, if ever. Only about 65% to 70% of cars that reach end of life today are recycled and only up to about 75% of the recycled cars is actually recycled. This means that under best case conditions today, only about 50% of end-of-life automobile material ends up recycled. )

The article states that many Cars for clunkers were never sent to recycling facilities (many isn't a number. How many is important or this is just BS. The program provided for cars to be sent to recycling facilities for 180 days. Everything that could be recycled in that period of time was available for recycling. The government allowed the free market to determine how much opportunity to take of this 180 days and they made that choice. I looked for any kind of estimate about how much recycling of CARS trade-ins actually got recycled without success. So I don't know how much recycling actually got done, but I do know that car dealers had the option to recycle for 180 days before shredding.)

shredding facilities produce about 500 pounds of shredding residue for every ton of metal . . . (so if we assume that not one single CARS clunker had one single item recycled on it in 180 days, then 690,000 cars at an average of 4000 lbs per car would produce 3.45 million tons of residue. But from the previous analysis, we also know that half of that residue would have existed anyway since only about 67% of cars are recycled and only 75% is recyclable. In 2010, according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans produced 136 million tons of waste that had to be disposed of in landfills. So, in the most hideous kind of worst case analysis possible, this program could have increased landfill requirements by about 1.3% for one year.)

I like this one. The article tells us that 4.5 million tons of residue is produced on average every year. (Yeah. So we know that the free market is conciously making the decision not to recycle everything just because it is possible. Instead, they recycle what can be recycled for profit and send the rest to landfills. This 4.5 million tons the article mentions has nothing to do with the CARS program . . . nothing.)

The article states that recycling metal and plastic from the cars would have saved 24 million barrels of oil (yes, if the technology to do that were fully developed. But that is research that is in progress. It is not available today. Here's what the original article that this one references actually says A partnership between the American Chemistry Council, Argonne National Laboratory and USCAR has been working on a way of extracting more of this material, specifically the plastic. Argonne estimates that recycling just the plastic and metal would represent 24 million barrels of oil saved each year. So, that's interesting research that we might like to fund, but it doesn't have anything to do with the impact of the 2009 CARS program. )

The article also claims that some of the "clunkers" were in perfectly good condition, relatively young with fuel efficiencies that rivaled newer cars. (This is one of those liar-liar-pants-on-fire statements. Again, here is what the original article actually said: The Department of Transportation reported that Cash for Clunkers was an environmental success. The clunkers averaged 15.8 mpg, compared with the 25.4 mpg for new vehicles being purchased, for an average fuel-economy increase of 61%. In general, drivers traded in inefficient SUVs and trucks for more efficient passenger cars.)

And the article tells us that 690,000 cars traded in out of 250,000,000 registered cars implies little impact to polution. (Well . . . it is true that this is a small percentage of the registered vehicles. Of course the vehicles taken off the road were among the lowest mpg vehicles onthe road and the program did achieve a 61% improvement in efficiency for the trades. I'm not sure what to make of this criticism. Are the critics suggesting the program should have been bigger?)

Finally, the article tells us that the program created a dearth of used cars, driving up prices, leaving people without affordable transportation and putting used car dealers out of business. (phttttt . . . I have no idea how to quantify such wild claims and niether did the people making them. But, we now know of one demographic group other than the ultra-wealthy that teabaggers support - used car dealers. I guess somebody has to love them.)

Here are several of the sources of information I used:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_recycling
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/autos/2009-05-11-chrysl...
http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/lwm/recycle/pubs/msw_landf...
http://www.emagazine.com/blog/the-cash-for-clunkers-conundru...
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