Cash for Clunkers: Missing Pieces

2 Aug

When the Cash-for-Clunkers program was announced, I admittedly was all for it.  Here’s a way to stimulate the lagging auto industry, while removing some gas-guzzling pigs off the road.  Even the government impressed me with its apparent efficiency at launching such a large-scale program. To mobilize so swiftly, developing the rules and systems to give away $1-billion tax-payer dollars, without widespread fraud, was actually impressive.

Think about all the old Caprices, Cadillacs, Azteks, SUVs and other marvels of crappy engineering getting off the road forever. If I can avoid driving in traffic with fewer of these unsafe-at-any-speed behemoths, then many of my car-guy wishes have surely been granted.  All the soulless crap built mostly by US automakers can be exchanged for up to four-thousand, five-hundred dollars of cold, hard cash and finally taken off of our streets forever. Godspeed.

In my practical car-guy line of thinking, the architecture of such a plan made sense to me: a) auto manufacturers and dealers sell more cars, b) junkers get off the road (even future junkers), c) the junk yards get a boost and d) the auto recycling (aka used parts) business is stimulated.

Insert sound of shrieking, braking tires here.

According to the cars.gov site–the official site of the program–cars are not recycled, they’re  destroyed or “shredded.”  Shredded! In my utopian world, where the government keeps talking CO2 emissions and “G0-Green,” the CARS bill would include a provision for recycling cars.  I mean, recycling is green right?  It’s regenerating.  It’s making the most of our resources.  Right?

Apparently that’s not really in the interest of the People.  The Obama Administration feels that ridding these guzzling beasts from our streets in whole or part is the only way to go.  Dismantling the cars and selling off their parts is not even a consideration.  Shredding, crushing and otherwise wasting them is how the program works and this is absolutely ludicrous.  What’s more, the engine of the vehicle is immediately destroyed by the dealer, with some sort of liquid-glass concoction poured into the places where oil previously lubricated.  Once loved, well-maintained vehicles–which may be running perfectly–are ceremoniously destroyed by auto dealer workers all because their resale value wasn’t equal to $3,500 or $4,500.  Check out this perfectly good Volvo sedan–it’s sickening and sad to watch.  Other videos like this can be found all over YouTube, including one particularly sad episode featuring a BMW 735i’s wonderful 6-cylinder turned into a pile of rubble.  Very sad, indeed.

Back when I was developing this program in my mind, I imagined the government certifying dismantlers to take these cars from dealers.  Perhaps some permanent badge would be  attached to the vehicles with a tracking system insuring the cars make it to the dismantlers. Government agents in black jackets and sunglasses inspecting dealers and dismantlers books to negate fraud.  Everyone and everything tracked by a Google-developed, government database that people can track via the Web.  Dismantlers would enjoy an influx of parts for cars they wouldn’t see for a few more years and the economy would surge upward.  People with good running  versions of those cars would enjoy a healthy used parts supply and dismantlers would work with recyclers to sell recyclable parts for scrap. Why isn’t this the case?  Why are we simply taking some apparently decent cars and trashing them?  Why don’t we dismantle them, recycle the parts or send the cars out of the country?  What happens to a compacted cube of a car or a shredded hulk of metal, leather, plastic and other materials?

Cash-for-Clunkers is simply wasteful and wrong.

I can’t get behind this at any level.  The car guy in me bleeds inside.  The waste-not-want-not practical side of me is sickened by the waste.  Many modern cars are recyclable. The Volkswagen group, for instance, has advertised for many years that over 85% of a Volkswagen or Audi automobile is recyclable. A Volkswagen’s plastic bits are stamped with a number designating their plastic-type for recycling.  They even have a factory-run recycling program in Europe to ensure destroyed cars are properly recycled and not simply thrown away. Why aren’t we mobilizing our auto recycling industry to work on this solution? I suppose they have no lobby representation.

By the early success of the program, it’s apparent the American public is very fond of Cash for Clunkers.  Money talks, right?  But this is one of those programs that has short-term gain, with long-term liability.  It’s wasteful, it’s wrong and I can’t get behind it. If you think so too, write your congressman and others in the Government.  Before we spend another $2-billion on this program, shouldn’t it be revised into a more comprehensive program?  It’s your money–make the call.