Automotive "Methadone Program" (AKA Cash for Clunkers) Leads to Relapse in Germany


Photo via NY Times
Update: Top 10 Most Fuel Efficient Cars to Buy with "Cash for Clunkers" Money

While the spotlight has recently shown brightly on the US iteration of the Cash for Clunkers program, Germany—whose program Abwrackprämie or "wreck rebate"—has been going at it since January. According to a NY Times article, Germany has dwarfed the US’s efforts, with a $7 billion dollar budget and timeframe through the end of the year.

All this is swell except for one detail: many of the polluting cars are not being scrapped. Unlike the US, which has taken pains to prevent the cars from falling into the wrong hands by injecting sodium silicate into the oil pan, the German program has allowed the still operating cars to be dropped off at their nearest junkyard. 50K of these dirty and moribund cars have reportedly avoided demolition, according Ronald Schulze, an expert with the Association of Criminal Investigators. The cars are being sold on the black market and shipped to Africa, Eastern Europe and sometimes ending up back on the road in Germany.

This potential for circumventing the system puts holes in an already dubious tactic for greening global highways. The programs, which have been instituted throughout Europe, have been referred to as a "methadone program for addicted automakers" by Jos Dings, director of the European Federation for Transport and Environment, an environmental advocacy group in Brussels. TreeHugger has discussed how competing agendas may obfuscate the US version’s primary motivation—is the program about improving mileage or perpetuating the auto industry?

Problems with fraud notwithstanding, there seems to be some consensus that the program will target some of dirtiest cars on the road in the US, and to a lesser extent Europe, whose cars are generally much more efficient than ours. But might the consequent boost in car sales do more harm than the dead cars by maintaining the religious place the car has in the global consciousness? Might the program just be a green-washed way of avoiding the imperative for the world's population—whether they own a car or aspire to—to detoxify from its addiction to cars in general?

Via NY Times and LA Times
Read More on Cash for Clunkers:
"Cash for Clunkers" Gets Green Light In House Committee
Making the Most of Your Clunker Cash
Sierra Club Launches Online Guide to Cash for Clunkers Program

Tags: Air Pollution | Fuel Efficiency | Germany | United States