NAFTA Bad For Mexico's Air Quality


You've just traded in your old junker for a brand new, fuel-efficient car. It's quiet, clean, and leaves your friends 'green' with envy. You feel mighty good about the purchase, and well you should, right? Well, according to a recent Los Angeles Times article, not quite. Turns out many of those "old gas guzzlers just won't die." That's because

More than 3 million late-model vehicles have rumbled legally south of the border in the last 2 1/2 years. Millions more are on the way, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The vintage metal is rattling Mexico's retail car market. Sales of new vehicles have stalled at 1.1 million a year as used imports have overtaken them. Sales of new subcompacts -- the most popular class of cars in Mexico because of their price -- skidded 16.4% last year as buyers snapped up cheaper, roomier used vehicles from the U.S.

It used to be that Mexico "restricted imports of used vehicles and slapped hefty taxes on new ones," but in 2005, in order to meet its NAFTA obligations, the Mexican government began "opening its market to some used vehicles from the U.S. and Canada." As a result, more than 13% person of Mexico's vehicles are imported used cars from the American and Canadian markets. This has had a ripple effect on the Big Three, "for which Mexico has been an important consumer of new vehicles." But it has also impacted air quality, because though there are smog standards on the books, "Mexico has yet to put a comprehensive testing system in place."

Already, towns bordering the U.S. have seen a tremendous upsurge in vehicle ownership, as inexpensive, dirty imports flood the market. In Juarez alone, ownership is "much higher than the Mexican average: one car for every two adults compared with 1 for every 5 nationwide." The concern among environmentalists is that as the U.S. fleet turns over and more high-mileage, inexpensive and inefficient cars enter the market, air pollution and congestion will intensify. This is on top of the fact that car use in Mexico City has doubled over the last 7 years. Still, there is cause for optimism. "Although NAFTA will allow very old used cars to be imported to Mexico, it will eventually permit newer ones to enter as well. That should lower prices and enable buyers to upgrade to cleaner vehicles." Additionally, Mexico City is committed to building more Bus Rapid Transit Lines and building 186 Miles of Bike Paths by 2012.

This kind of news ought the renew the debate about which is greener, buying new or keeping old.

Via: ::LA Times

See Also: ::Mexico Approves Corn and Sugar Cane Ethanol Law::Mexico City Launches "Green Plan", ::First North American Energy Agreement Inked, ::In Harper's Magazine: The Battle for the Melting North, ::John Sewell on Import Substitution, ::Friedman of the Week Dept: Save the Planet, Vote Smart, ::Taxing the Way to Fuel Efficiency in the UK, and ::Young Chinese: Cars First, Then Sustainable Consumption.

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