The "Cash for Clunkers" program started off with a bang yesterday. The idea is that you can take your old car to a dealer and get a coupon for $4500 to be used toward the purchase of a new, energy-efficient car. There aren't that many requirements, except that the old car has to really be a guzzler - to qualify it has to get 18mpg or less. And the car you purchase must get at least 10mpg MORE than that. You can get a coupon for $3500 if you raise your fuel-efficiency by somewhat less than that.
The program is supposed to spur sluggish car sales and encourage the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles. That sounds good. It's also intended to get the gas hogs and polluters off the road. Even better.
But here's the part that worries me: "Dealers must remove the engine and transmission of the cars that are turned in, disable them and take them to a junkyard." That sounds like we're leaving the task of responsibly disposing of tons of heavy objects to used car dealers. Am I the only one who's worried about this?
First of all, is it really better to junk those old cars, adding enormous (possibly toxic) waste to the landfills? And secondly, who will oversee that the process is done in an environmentally friendly way?
I couldn't find any analyses of these questions in my search last night, the day the program went into effect, but I'm going to continue looking. Please let me know if you find anything. I have a feeling we're about to see one of those "cash-strapped, recession-weary consumer" versus "sanctimonious environmentalist" arguments crop up. Like the one where we're all supposed to want gas prices to be so low that people can drive around in SUVs and Hummers, because, hey, that's their choice. As Americans. That really gets my goat. When you point out that in countries where gas prices are high, people drive more fuel-efficient cars, you're called un-American.
What do you think? Is there some way to head off this storm before it happens? Please tell me your thoughts in the Comments section.