As American as apple pie or overeating, the automobile has served as an emblem of success to the U.S citizens for generations. As the industry imploded in on itself, encompassing with it all the lowlights of this so-called Great Recession outsourced jobs, lay-offs, people buying foreign products all culminating with the big wigs of the industry demanding bailout money from the cockpit of their personal jets- one could not ignore that America as we knew it might be changing permanently.
When the government announced its Cash for Clunkers program, a stimulus bill that encourages the purchase of new, more fuel-efficient vehicles by offering cash vouchers (up to $4,500) to consumers when they trade in their less fuel-efficient automobiles, it sounded like a win-win situation for everyone involved. People who may not normally be able to afford a new vehicle would have the resources to make purchases that would stimulate the automotive industry and a number of gas chugging vehicles would be taken off the road.
While on the surface this bill appears to be an environmentalists dream, upon further inspection, the facade of eco-friendliness begins to crack. While the Cash for Clunkers program has been declared by its supporters as a raging success, both as an economic stimulus program and as a green initiative, a recent AP story reveals that a majority of trade ins involved a pick up truck being exchanged for a marginally more fuel-efficient pick up truck. Opponents of this initiative now argue that this is like trading in poisoned apples for slightly less poisoned oranges.
“So what! Less is still more when it comes to gas consumption! The environment is giving this two thumbs up, why can’t you?”, you are likely shouting at your computer screen right now. And you’d be kind of right, until you consider the perplexing fuel-efficiency paradox, which explains that increased fuel efficiency does not translate into decreased oil demands. This is because when people are faced with a bargain at the pumps the simply respond by driving more.
Perhaps dear old Cash for Clunkers and its inventors had their hearts in the right place, hoping to alleviate the toll the recession was taking on the automotive industry, while simultaneously helping out the battered environment and did not intentionally green wash this bill in an effort to appease Economists and Environmentalist alike. Some may even argue that the immediate needs of the economy outweigh the long-term needs of the environment, while others could counter that the benefits or disadvantages of this program will remain to be seen for some time to come.
What is undeniable by parties on both sides of this debate is that there is nothing more American than consuming more than you need, and until we address this inclination to overindulge programs like this, our economy and the environment will continue to suffer.