More about when to junk your car

I’ve written before about the question of when to buy a new car as opposed to making your old one last. Two related points came to my attention this morning. One is right here in the C-VILLE Weekly (print version only), in the current cartoon by wicked-funny Slowpoke artist Jen Sorensen. This week Jen takes on the question of what automakers should do with all those new cars they aren’t selling right now. Pick up the paper if you want to find out her ideas; I’ll just say that she definitely gets to the question of waste that’s implied by all that unneeded inventory.

The other was in this Grist report on a bill that just passed the U.S. Senate and is likely to be signed by President Obama. It’s called "cash for clunkers" and would give folks vouchers for trading in their inefficient cars for newer ones that get…well, only a tiny bit better mileage. Example: You drive a 1985 Dodge pickup that’s pulling 12 miles to the gallon. Trade it in for a 2009 Range Rover that boasts an impressive 14 miles to the gallon, and the government will give you $3,500! Choose something that gets 17 mpg, and your voucher expands to $4,500.

This is some whack legislation. Clearly it’s meant as a straight-up boost to the auto industry, but is being dressed up as a quasi-environmental measure. If and when Obama signs up, he’ll slip a little in my estimation. Yeah, Detroit is very important to our economy, but it’s also an industry that has egregiously dragged its feet on addressing the pollution its products cause. And subsidizing drivers who opt for vehicles like this—while in effect patting them on the back for their eco-friendliness—really, shall we say, grinds my gears.

You feel me, folks?

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