Cash for flunkers, and letters smudged with coal


Green Scene knows you all have been waiting with bated breath to find out what we think about this week’s news. And we’re here to deliver: R.I.P., John Hughes. Welcome home, journalists. Congrats, wise Latina.

More relevant to the purview of this blog are the Fake Letters from Coal Scandal and the Guzzler Subsidy Program. Let’s take these one at a time. Fake Letters from Coal is the whole deal with Congressman Tom Perriello receiving letters opposing the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, for which he voted back in June. The letters looked like they were from Charlottesville-based minority groups (Creciendo Juntos and the local NAACP branch).

But, whoops, they were written by a lobbying group! And—oopsie—the group also sent fake letters to two other representatives! And gosh, what do you know: the lobbying group was working for the coal industry! And pulled another stunt like this in 2002! And seems to have been dealing dishonestly as far back as 1986!

Coal is so dirty, my friends—physically and morally. This is only the latest example. Of course the industry group is acting outraged by the scandal, but it’s unconvincing given the long association between coal and deceit. If that’s too broad a brush for you, consider that the coal group knew about the fake letters two days before the congressional vote even happened. Did they tell anyone? Take a guess. You’ve got a fifty-fifty shot.

On to the Guzzler Subsidy Program, better known as Cash-for-Clunkers. I wrote about this when the Senate passed it in June, pointing out that the program could conceivably reward consumers for buying "fuel-efficient" vehicles that get 14 miles to the gallon. Last night the Senate kicked Clunkers another $2 billion.

I still think this is a pretty questionable program. There’s no doubt it’s helping auto dealers, but it’s far from certain that it’s helping the planet (see Lee Schipper’s comments in this story). It’s been frustrating to hear so much reporting on this program that fails to give any numbers on actual gains in fuel efficiency.

Anybody taken advantage of Clunkers? Got an opinion about the coal letters?