Protesters Ask If Environmental Subsidies Should Serve Environmental Causes

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Image: Getty Images

In Germany, the government has offered a 2500€ rebate on a new car to anyone who drives, drags, or delivers a nine-year-old or older auto for scrapping. This fantastic offer was sold under the theme "environment," and is being eaten up by German consumers. Auto magazines show piles of shiny cars in still good condition waiting on the metal heap -- many of these cars worth more than 2500€ if offered for sale as used cars. And rebate banners, as well as extra rebates offered by manufacturers, are even drawing buyers whose trade-ins do not meet the age criteria.

Now this action has started a protest. The German bicycle club, VCD, argues that wreck rebates do not really serve the environment, and they are demanding equal treatment for the true environmentalists: those riding bikes and public transport. What should the standard for handing out public money under the rubric of green? And can the VCD win in the face of legal action threatened by the government?Older cars are already being pushed out of service by new laws in Germany that restrict the amount of pollution a vehicle can emit, especially in cities where air quality is threatened by vehicle emissions. So a good argument can be made that the "wreck rebates" are more targeted towards reviving Germany's most vital economic sector than towards protecting the environment.

And the bicycle club definitely has a valid point: money is there for the having, but not for those who have already made the best environmental choices in their lifestyle. The VCDs' demands seem not too far out of line. They have set up a website where people can submit their protest by email.

And the VCD is encouraging bicycle owners who want to trade an old bike for new to submit a request similar to the paperwork designed for securing the wreck rebate for autos. The VCD even proposes that people should junk their cars and submit for monies to purchase train and subway tickets. VCD supporters can participate by clicking on the logo for the protest, "The country needs new bikes! Environmental rebates now!"

Umweltprämie jetzt!

But the minstry responsible for the rebates, the Ministry of Economy and Export Control (Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Ausfuhrkontrolle) is pushing back with threats of legal action if the VCD does not remove the recommended text for emailing in protest. VCD has responded that they will not give in to such pressures, noting that the thousands of people who have participated are proof enough of the validity of the cause.

What would you do if you were in charge of saving the economy while pushing the green agenda? Would it be eonugh to keep the wreck rebates, but call them an economic measure with a minor potential environmental benefit? Or is there a way to reward the bike and subway riders and stimulate the economy at the same time?

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Tags: Economics | Germany | Transportation

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