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Did Cash for Clunkers Fail the Environment?

Cash for Clunkers - Welfare for Auto Makers

A guest post was just published on my AutoConversion blog about the government assistance program Cash for Clunkers, a 2009 government assistance program formally known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS).

The article takes a hard look at the environmental and economical impact of the program and ultimately concludes that CARS failed the environment miserably, cost the country money we didn’t have, and was nothing more than a welfare injection for the auto makers.

I did not fact-check the article but there are a lot of numbers in there that reflect the economic affect and some reputable insight about the nation’s vehicle disposal and recycling businesses. Suffice it to say there are things that were probably not considered when this legislation was made, or if they were then they may have been disregarded.

Or maybe the article is a stretch? I really don’t know. Here is what it reads…

========== ORIGINAL ARTICLE CONTENTS ==========

Author Chad Arthur writes for, a website that helps people find the best rates for SR22 insurance.

In 2009, nearly 690,000 people took advantage of CARS, surrendering their inefficient old vehicles in exchange for a $3,500-$4,500 credit towards a new vehicle. By encouraging consumers to replace older vehicles with brand new ones, the plan would reduce air pollution caused by these older cars, improve our national fuel economy average, and boost the economy.

Unfortunately, what was promised and what actually happened are two different things.

CARS Was Popular, But Not Without Critics

The financial bump from the CARS program was immediate, at least for car dealers and manufacturers. The government boasted that new cars replacing the old clunkers were 61% more fuel efficient, improving from an average of 15.4 mpg to 25.4 mpg.

Everything seemed to be going perfectly – enthusiasm and participation was so high that congress extended the program through 2010 and doubled the budget to $2 billion.

However, even during the program’s heyday, there were questions. Why are new truck and SUV purchases qualifying for the CARS rebate, even when these vehicles get bad gas mileage? Why are US tax dollars being used to subsidize the sale of Hondas, Toyotas, and other imported vehicles – shouldn’t Cash for Clunkers be limited to domestics? Is CARS really helping replace clunkers, or would these vehicles

Finally, what’s happening to all those old clunkers?

Do Old Cars Go To Heaven?

Normally, when an old “clunker” is traded in on a new car, one of two three things happens:

  1. It’s re-sold to someone in the USA, perhaps replacing an even older clunker.
  2. It’s exported to Central or South America, where demand for older US vehicles is great (especially older 4x4s).
  3. The car is so bad that it’s taken to the local junkyard where it can be sold for spare parts and eventually scrapped.

Under the rules of the CARS program, things were a bit different.

First, every clunker’s engine had to be destroyed. Technicians opened the oil filler cap, poured in a sodium silicate solution that quickly turned into glass inside the engine, rendering the engine useless. Thus, no clunkers could return to the road in the USA or elsewhere.

Second, once the engines had been destroyed, dealers could sell the remaining shell of the vehicle to a local junkyard. Once at the junkyard (aka vehicle recycling center), newer and/or popular models were typically stripped of parts in a few weeks. Older and/or less popular cars, on the other hand, went largely untouched.

Three, congress had strapped a time bomb on any vehicle traded-in as parts of CARS program. After 180 days – regardless of how much of the vehicle has been recycled – the vehicle had to be destroyed.

The problem? It might take years to part out an older or less popular car. Six months simply wasn’t enough time.

Recycling is Good for the Environment, Right?

According to the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), nearly 100% of any given vehicle can be recycled…everything from body panels to starters to those little plastic parts in the interior. However, 100% recovery takes time. The ARA says it takes about 3 years for a vehicle to be completely parted out, at which point the remaining pieces (basically the frame and damaged parts) are shredded for scrap.

Unfortunately, because the CARS program mandated that clunkers had to be shredded after 180 days, hundreds of thousands of vehicles weren’t completely recycled. Instead, they were sent to shredding facilities, where giant machines can turn an entire car into a pile of metal shreds in a few minutes.

The problem with shredding? For each ton of metal recovered at a shredding facility, roughly 500 pounds of chemical laden shredder residue are sent a landfill.

The ARA attempted to reason with the government, lobbying to extend the 180 day deadline. They explained that the plastic and metal destroyed by premature shredding represented the same amount of energy found in 24 million barrels of oil, something that the CARS program was supposed to be saving. No extension came.

The Impact of Cash for Clunkers

Estimates range, but as little as 3 million tons and as much as 4.5 million tons of toxic residue was sent to landfills as a direct result of the CARS program. With so much toxic metal scrap generated as waste, the green ambitions of the CARS program wilted faster than a bouquet of gas-station roses.

As for the 690,000 new, more fuel efficient vehicles on the road, the benefits to the environment were fairly negligible. There are over 250 million registered vehicles on the road – getting rid of 690,000 clunkers represented just isn’t enough to make a dent.

Did the CARS (Cash for Clunkers) program benefit the environment? No, or the reasons stated above. Did the CARS program benefit the economy? Once again, according to the Wall Street Journal, the answer is no.

Says the WSJ: “Rather than stimulating the economy, the program made the nation as a whole $1.4 billion poorer.”

Did CARS benefit the companies who build and sell cars? The answer is an emphatic yes – dealers and automakers combined likely earned about $5,000 for every vehicle sold…putting about $3.5 billion into these industries. Perhaps the government should have called CARS the “Car Manufacturers Welfare Program” instead.

Read original article here


2012 Auto Highlights In The Philippines

Ford Mustang debuts in 2012 Philippine auto market

Ford Mustang debuts in 2012 Philippine auto marketA look at some of the 2012 automotive highlights in the Philippines has some interesting roll outs. According to the Inquirer, here are 12 of the best auto announcements this year:

  1. The Ferrari and Maserati showroom in Taguig City
  2. Lamborghini announced its own showroom at Bonifacio Global City
  3. BMW introduced its 3 Series
  4. Toyota sported the FT-86
  5. America’s favorite sports coupe, the Ford Mustang, debuted at the 2012 Manila International Auto Show
  6. Hyundai raced in with two new models
  7. Mazda signed a distributorship agreement with the Malaysian Berjaya Group
  8. Eurobrands Distributor Inc. became the new distributor for Peugeot
  9. Volkswagen married Ayala Automotive Holdings Corp., which became the official Philippine distributor for Germany’s people’s car
  10. Mitsubishi Mirage reached an important sales landmark
  11. Subaru rolled out the BRZ trim
  12. Toyota broke new ground with record sales in the Philippines

We’re particularly excited about the Ford Mustang announcement because it’s the only truly American vehicle to make the announcements. No Chevy and no GMC.

Ford’s in great company here. The new Mustang comes available with a 3.7-liter V6 Premium engine or the 5-liter V8 GT Premium engine. Both engines are remarkable and are offered at incredible price points in the Philippine market.

American cars are on the go in markets worldwide, but residents of the Philippines sure love their Mustangs.

Auto Mechanics Go Back To School

auto repairs and new technology

auto repairs and new technologyChanging technologies means professionals who work on cars have to update their training from time to time to meet the growing demand of electronic, hybrid, and other emerging vehicle technologies. That’s just a part of the challenge of being an auto mechanic.

New technology like regenerative braking, high voltage engines, and new fuel economy components require a special expertise that many older mechanics don’t have. Younger mechanics can get the training required to work on these technologies in their initial schooling, but a lot of older mechanics have to take time off work to update their skills.

It’s entirely feasible that some day auto mechanics will be completely electronic-based with mechanics specializing in particular aspects of service. For instance, a brake mechanic will have to be trained on brake diagnostics and repairing computerized braking systems.

As the automotive industry moves toward electric and hybrid vehicle classes, new auto mechanics will have to be trained in the workings of these particular types of engines, which are completely different from the Fords and Chevies of 20 years ago. Auto tune ups, fuel injection cleaning, and even belt maintenance are changing the way auto repairs are done.

Some day, your local auto mechanic will be an electrical wiring expert. Plain and simple.

Creating The 21st Century Automobile

Introducing the mobility internet

Introducing the mobility internetAuthors William Mitchell, Christopher Borroni-Bird, and Lawrence Burns want to take the automobile to the next level in its evolutionary biology. In their minds that means creating a “mobility Internet” that operates much the same way the mobile Internet works, except for cars.

So what would that look like exactly?

To this author trio, a mobility Internet for vehicles would include several of the following types of connected technology:

  • Vehicles will be electrically driven, but electronically controlled
  • Traffic management through real-time location-specific vehicle-to-vehicle sharing of information
  • A clean energy grid that connects vehicles, transportation routes, and buildings
  • Dynamically-priced markets for electricity, parking, roads, vehicles, etc.

This 21st century vision for re-inventing the automobile, presented in a book on the topic, includes detailed plans for carbon emissions, city planning, traffic management, parking, and sustainability.

The ideas are a little pie-in-the-sky, but that hasn’t stopped other visionaries from pursuing their innovations. The Wright Brothers, for instance, gave us wings. Early automobile visionaries like Karl Benz and Henry Ford gave us fast wheels.

The question is: Are drivers ready for a connected automobile grid? Digital technology has arrived in full force, but are auto drivers ready to turn their vehicles over to the Internet? Would such a holistic digital system focused on turning every car on the road into a part of the Internet solve our transportation issues, or would it simply create more?

10 In-Car Technologies To Be Thankful For

emerging automotive technologies

emerging automotive technologiesAutomotive technology just keeps getting better and better. Unless you are buying pre-owned vehicles, it is really difficult to a car today that isn’t equipped with digital technology. Virtually every new car on the road has some sort of digital technology, and it won’t be long before every vehicle driven will be full of such technology from wheelbase to wheelbase.

So which emerging auto technologies are the best ones? Here are 10 auto technologies you should be thankful for today and that you will definitely grow in love with by this time next decade.

  1. Bluetooth – With Bluetooth technology there is no reason to pick up your cell phone – ever.
  2. USB ports – Today’s USB ports support every kind of handheld technology that has a cable. Your passengers can listen to music, watch videos, or plug in their cell phone.
  3. Voice commands – From music to GPS navigation, you can turn on any device in your car just by talking.
  4. In-dash media streaming – I wouldn’t recommend watching a movie while you drive, but backseat passengers should be able to watch what they like. Then, there’s the music.
  5. Heads-up displays – Imagine looking out your windshield and seeing an arrow telling you which street to turn on. Yep, it’s coming.
  6. Physical controls – No, I’m not talking about manual overdrive. I’m talking about revolutionary technology like BMW’s iDrive.
  7. OnStar – Find any business or location using point-of-interest databases and GPS navigation, even if the business has recently moved.
  8. Rearview cameras – Call them rearview cameras or backup cameras, but they are now the backbone of digital delivery systems with multiple in-car technologies rolled into one.
  9. Portable GPS – Just put it up on your dash and you’ll have access to traffic reports, whether reports, Bluetooth, and loads of other data right at your fingertips in real time.
  10. Restaurant recommendations – Reserve your seat at your favorite restaurant, see Yelp reviews, and get loads of other information about area restaurants on the go, right from your dashboard.

Today’s automotive technology is taking auto driving to new levels. Which of these is your favorite technology?

Rearview Cameras Become Technology Of The Year

rearview camera are emerging as a central computer for auto technology

rearview camera are emerging as a central computer for auto technologyRearview cameras have a long history. Would you believe the first one was introduced in 1956? Yes, in a Buick Centurion Motoroma.

But it looks like 2013 is going to be the year of the rearview camera. Virtually every auto manufacturer is introducing some version of this fairly new technology. I say “fairly new” because the advancements have gone way beyond what Buick ever imagined in 1956.

Sophisticated software allows these automotive necessities to distinguish between pedestrians and inanimate objects, know where lane lines are drawn, and sense how quickly you are approaching the vehicle in front of you. Other awesome tasks your rearview camera can undertake include:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Automatic headlights
  • Intelligent high beams
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Lane departure alert
  • And of course a clearer view of everything behind you

All of that from a rearview camera? Yes, it’s that amazing. No wonder the AARP recommends this technology for senior drivers.

Nissan, Subaru, and Chevrolet are just three of the auto makers introducing rearview camera technology this year. The Nissan Altima turns your camera into a blind spot monitor when you shift into drive.

All of these tasks are managed through a central computer. As the technology grows and improves, it will be able to do more things. The limits of the rearview camera have yet to be seen. This could very well become one of the most important automotive developments in the history of the car.

AARP Recommends Auto Technology For Seniors

auto technology makes driving safer for senior drivers

auto technology makes driving safer for senior driversThe Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP) has highlighted several key automotive technologies that they consider important for senior drivers to embrace. These recommended auto technologies are important emerging auto technologies, many of which are being introduced by automakers and being embraced by mainstream auto drivers.

Twelve of the most important auto technologies being recommended for senior citizens by AARP include:

  1. Smart headlights
  2. Emergency response systems
  3. Rear camera and back up monitoring
  4. Blind spot warning technology
  5. Lane departure signals
  6. Vehicle stability control
  7. Parking assist
  8. Crash mitigation
  9. Drowsy driver alerts
  10. Rear cross traffic alerts
  11. Adaptive cruise control
  12. All wheel drive

Autoconverse has written about adaptive headlight technology and lane change monitoring technology before. Other technologies like all wheel drive and adaptive cruise control have been around for some time, so why is AARP all of a sudden recommending them?

In the case of all wheel drive technology, newer iterations allow the automobile to electronically send signals to the wheels that assist in better control over the vehicle, particularly in inclement weather.

As drivers grow older, their reflexes get slower. It’s not a slight on seniors. That’s just the way it is. Emerging technologies allow older drivers to compensate for these natural diminishing of driver skills and make driving safer for seniors in this critical period of their lives. Rather than fight the technology, it’s time for senior drivers to embrace it and make driving safer for everyone.

SpaceX Dragon Returns to Earth in First Official Cargo Resupply Mission

SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Ocean Landing


Hawthorne, CA — Today at 12:22 p.m. PT, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft returned to Earth from the International Space Station, safely splashing down approximately 250 miles off the coast of southern California.

“This historic mission signifies the restoration of America’s ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo,” said SpaceX CEO and Chief Technical Officer Elon Musk. “The reliability of SpaceX’s technology and the strength of our partnership with NASA provide a strong foundation for future missions and achievements to come.”

Dragon departed the station early this morning with 1,673 pounds of return cargo including hardware, supplies, and a GLACIER freezer packed with scientific samples. Dragon is the only craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies to Earth, and this mission marks the first time since the space shuttle that NASA has been able to return research samples for analysis.

The SpaceX recovery team is now transporting Dragon by boat to a port near Los Angeles, where early cargo will be delivered to NASA. Dragon then will be transported to SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas for processing. There, the remaining cargo will be delivered to NASA.

The mission, called CRS-1, began October 7, when the Falcon 9 rocket launched Dragon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX and NASA are currently investigating an anomaly that occurred with one of Falcon 9’s first-stage engines during the launch. Analysis to date supports initial findings:  the engine experienced a rapid loss of pressure and Falcon 9’s flight computer immediately commanded shutdown, as it is designed to do in such cases. The team will continue to meticulously analyze all data in an effort to determine root cause and will apply those findings to future flights.

This mission is the first of at least 12 to the International Space Station that SpaceX will fly under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

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Teach Your Teen To Drive With GPS

GPS and safe teen drivers

GPS and safe teen driversGlobal Positioning Systems (GPS) have been used widely in all sorts of fields, but they’re really catching on in the auto industry. Of course, it isn’t really the auto manufacturers that are making the most of GPS technology. It’s also insurance companies and parents.

Insurance companies are now offering discounts to drivers who install permanent GPS tracking technology into their vehicles.

Such technology is useful in many ways. One practical way that parents are using the technology is to teach their teenage children to drive safely. By monitoring their teen’s driving habits they can determine if the teen has engaged in any dangerous driving behavior such as exceeding the posted speed limit, sudden braking, or jerks of the steering wheel to avoid a collision.

Knowledge of these bad habits come in handy for parents because they present an opportunity to teach their teenagers safer driving habits. This can lead to saving of lives down the road.

GPS technology comes in many forms. Some are installed directly into the vehicle while others come in the form of smartphone apps. Some are Internet-based. They can usually store data for safe record keeping and later retrieval. And insurance companies are willing to offer lower insurance premiums based on the promise that accidents can be avoided altogether. It makes the road safer for everyone.

I think the time is coming when GPS tracking technology will be automatically included in every vehicle purchase courtesy of your chosen manufacturer.

How Automobile Headlights Are On The Path To Improvement

adaptive headlights are improving automobile technology

adaptive headlights are improving automobile technologyWhen one thinks about buying a new car, one doesn’t often think about improvements to headlight technology as the impetus for such a purchase, and few of us would probably reject a particular automobile if the headlights work properly. Nevertheless, with all the improvements to auto manufacturing going on right now, headlight improvements being among the least of them, there are some notable improvements to automobile headlight technology that deserve to be mentioned.

LED technology, which stands for Light-Emitting Diode, is one of those new innovations. Like a lot of innovations, LED technology didn’t start with automobiles. This is a technology that has improved a lot of products, including flashlights, street signs, business signs, and anything that acts as a light source. LED lights last longer, which is good for automobile drivers. They also consume less power in producing the same amount of light. That might not be a reason to buy car A over car B, but when you’re on the road, believe me, you’ll notice the difference.

Adaptive Headlights Among The Newest Automobile Technology Innovations

The latest in headlight technology, however, beats anything that LED offers. “Adaptive” headlights use sensors to redirect the beams. In other words, they adapt to the changing environment.

For instance, suppose you turn off a well-lit avenue onto a darker road. Your headlights will adjust. And rather than point toward the sides of the roads as regular headlights do, adaptive headlights illuminate the road – and they can do so without blinding oncoming traffic. If they need to, adaptive headlights can shift when oncoming traffic approaches.

Sensors are changing how cars are made and how drivers drive. From wireless technology to auto-detect technology, the automobile industry is in the throes of a revolution. And, strangely, headlights are making their presence known in these changing times.