Saturday, August 08, 2009

America's car-centric short-sightedness clunking along

Now that the US taxpayer's own a good portion of GM, the thought is we should subsidize the purchasing of cars. The justification for this is that handing car owners $4500 to trade in vehicles for those with better mileage is that fewer oil will be consumed. The problem with this is that it perpetuates the belief that "all Americans must own cars." The very notion of not owning a car is still regarded as suspect, and peraps even un-American. Yet more Americans will need to abandon their cars for our nation to transform to a lower energy society.

Oil is at half what it was a year ago ( $71 a barrel ) , but we are also in the worst recession since the 30s. Once the economy begins to pick up again, the price of oil will skyrocket again. Anyone that is car dependent will be whining for even more car-centric subsidies like the cash-for-clunkers program, but for oil.

Yet, the much touted "cash-for-clunkers" program is a measly $7 subsidy per taxpayer. At $4500 per clunker, that comes to one beneficiary per 643 taxpayers. Right now this is very cheap and has received a lot of hype. Unless Congress decides to throw more money at this car-centric program, it will run out again within weeks. And if the majority of taxpayers want a bite at this program, it would take a significant portion of the Federal budget. And how can a car
-subsidizing program end our addiction to oil when none are electric?

Naturally, Republicans are starting to oppose this program. Governor Tim Pawlenty also opposes the clunkers program because it takes many used vehicles out of the market. He believes this will hurt the poor who could have used the cars currently being recycled. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas also opposes because it will further burden future generations with pointless debt. And interestingly, Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy voted against more clunker money because he did not see enough evidence the program was working.

One argument conservatives make against building more transit is that they could just spend the money buying cars for everyone. This argument is pointless for those who are too young/old to drive, cannot afford gas/repairs/insurance, and who care about our environment. Yet, altering their argument, one might say about the clunkers program: why not buy everyone bikes?

A "cash-for-rusters" program. Trade in any working vehicle or rusty bicycle for a shiny new bike. This would greatly reduce oil consumption and cost far less per beneficiary than the clunkers program. It would appease conservatives railing against wasteful spending because it is cheaper. Environmentally bikes clearly use less gasoline to produce than even the most energy efficient vehicle. America needs a pro-bicycle program, not more car-centric subsidies.

( Top image produced by Ken Avidor )


Alan Gregory, Lt. Col., USAF, Ret. said...

I'm with you. I've been a non-polluting walker, runner and cyclist for decades, starting with my Air Force tour at the big base at Oklahoma City and continuing through another three-year stay at a now closed Air Force base in upstate N.Y. Plattsburgh). I was doing great until two eyars ago when a car driven by an elderly woman clipped me as I was cycling just a quarter-mile from home, giving me a traumatic brain injury and resulting in months of hospitalization, surgery, and rehab. And all that came on top of my wife's lung-transplant surgery nearly six years ago. Just this month, a well-known (Sheetz) gasoline retailer announced plans to build a new convenience store/station just a half-mile from where I sit. So now I fear increased pollution from there as well. As I write, traffic passes by on the street out front coming from the local church. No one, barely, walks anywhere around here, even neighbors drive a half-mile to the post office when they could easily walk there. The noise pollution is getting worse. So is the air pollution.
Keep up your blog. I'll link to mine at

Alan Gregory, Lt. Col., USAF, Ret. said...

One of my favorite cities, and a very green one at that, is Burlington, Vt. Among the city's attractions? The pedestrian-only Church Street marketplace. Read about it here and take a loo at the Church St. photo:
The city's climate action plan is


nice information, i like this blog
thank you friend

Las Vegas Traffic School said...

Hmmm nice point friend, if who buying a hybrid or Ev's getting the some cash from govt. then why not a family which didn't own a car get the same amount for their reduction in emission by not using any car.