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Votes for clunkers

July 25th, 2010

Julia Gillard has announced an Australian version of the cash for clunkers program of the Obama Administration. Reader Ben Elliston writes

read an article some months ago by Jeffrey Sachs evaluating a
similar policy from the Obama administration:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-clunker-of-a-climate-policy

It turns out that the Gillard proposal is even worse than Obama’s.
Sachs calculated the greenhouse gas abatement value of Obama’s scheme
at US$140 per metric tonne. Gillard’s policy will reduce emissions by
1 million tonnes at a cost of $394 million dollars ($394/tonne).

My only observation is that Ben’s estimate is taken directly from the government’s press release, which is almost certainly overoptimistic. For comparison, at about $25/tonne, brown-coal electricity generation becomes uneconomic compared to gas and black coal. At $100/tonne, just about all the alternatives (including wind, nuclear, CCS, and solar) look pretty good. Cash for clunkers is, as Sachs concludes, a clunker of a policy.

And just in case anyone has forgotten, Abbott’s anti-policies are even more focused on this kind of nonsense/

  1. djm
    July 25th, 2010 at 13:22 | #1

    JQ, I think you have included the wrong URL in this post – it leads to a discussion of the “Scientists predicted global cooling” denialist talking point.

    D’oh! Fixed now I hope – JQ

  2. Hermit
    July 25th, 2010 at 14:07 | #2

    I’d have to say Gillard is off to a weak start. The manufacture of a new car is supposed to embody the energy equivalent of about 3,000L of petrol. Presumably most of that energy is carbon derived like metal, glass and electricity for welding and stamping. Thus to repay the ‘energy debt’ of a new car you’d want a fuel use difference that covers the 3kL in short order. Say 10 litres per week over 300 weeks or 6 years. Not that impressive so it really seems like a greenwash combined with pork barrelling for the auto industry.

    Since new cars can be $40k I wonder if $2k on top of a near zero trade-in for a 15+ year old car will get many takers. In any case oil based transport may sort itself out since it looks like global oil production is down from the peak plateau of 2005-2008. The single biggest thing Gillard could do is something that will steadily phase out coal. Not tree planting etc but burning less coal.

  3. Robert Merkel
    July 25th, 2010 at 15:34 | #3

    It’s even worse than that – it’s regressive and potentially rortable.

  4. Rationalist
    July 25th, 2010 at 15:45 | #4

    Carbon dioxide is not really a significant pollutant in comparison to carbon monoxide, sulfur and nitrogen oxides and unburnt hydrocarbons (especially benzene and other aromatics).

  5. silkworm
    July 25th, 2010 at 17:46 | #5

    Thank you, Rationalist, for showing us that Gillard’s understanding of pollution relates to environmental efforts from 30 years ago and has nothing to do with the effect of CO2 as a greenhouse gas on global warming. That’s not surprising since you, like Gillard, are a climate change inactivist.

    Gillard’s credibility on climate change is ZERO.

  6. Michael
    July 25th, 2010 at 18:09 | #6

    My 1993 Toyoto Corolla gets about 7L/100Km last I checked, which puts it on par with the “Green” Holden Cruze – brought to you by $149 million of tax payer money.

    The policy is completely backward, it should be “Cash for Non-clunkers”, ie. a rebate for trading in the grossly oversized, gas guzzling, pedestrian killing new cars, that people have bought in the last decade.

    Labor lost my vote a long time ago, but they are in danger of loosing my preference if they keep this sort of crap up.

  7. Donald Oats
    July 25th, 2010 at 18:44 | #7

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that this scheme is in part funded by yanking cash from the programs for solar energy plants and wind farms. Which would make it even more ridiculous. Take a gas-guzzling high emission old car off the road by all means, but plenty of pre-1996 cars were better then (and even now, if good care of the car was taken) than the monster SUVs so fashionable now.

    The money is most definitely better spent on alternative energy schemes using existing technology, than it is on the crackpot clunkers notion. Which economist gave the green light on this, and have they apologised yet? Deadarms all round!

  8. Jim Rose
    July 25th, 2010 at 18:55 | #8

    @Donald Oats
    if you make cars cheaper, consumers will spend part of the saving on buying a bigger car than otherwise which will consume more petrol and so on.

    It might bring SUVs and those people movers into the price ranges of many more.

  9. Salient Green
    July 25th, 2010 at 19:13 | #9

    You are correct Don.
    From this link, http://www.theage.com.au/federal-election/solar-plan-raided-to-pay-for-guzzlers-20100724-10pvk.html

    “But the move will be financed by cutting into existing carbon reduction programs, including $200million from the flagship solar power incentives and $150million off the renewable energy scheme that provides rebates to householders for solar hot water and heat pump systems.

    Ms Gillard revealed that a total of $520million in cuts would be made to existing carbon reduction programs, including $150million off the controversial carbon capture and storage research program.”

  10. July 25th, 2010 at 19:22 | #10

    Ms Gillard revealed that a total of $520million in cuts would be made to existing carbon reduction programs, including $150million off the controversial carbon capture and storage research program.”

    So effectively the cost is $370 million …

  11. rog
    July 25th, 2010 at 22:18 | #11

    Unfortunately the political process has resulted in ..cash for those with clunkers. Winning an election is the priority and climate change is not an election winner.

  12. July 26th, 2010 at 06:00 | #12

    @rog

    Indeed it is. What we can say is that the cost of not having a “Great big new tax” is $394-about $23 (the interim carbon price proposed by the Greens). Now personally, with the possible exception of the solar hot water program, I regard most of that $520 million as wasted anyway, so I’d put the cost lower, but it still is unacceptably high.

    It makes no sense to have a program that implies a higher CO2 abatement cost than you are willing to impose on the economy as a whole.

  13. Rationalist
    July 26th, 2010 at 08:26 | #13

    @silkworm
    If I breath in CO, SOx, NOx, hydrocarbons (particularly benzene or aromatics) I get sick, get cancer or die. This does not occur with CO2 which is harmless to my personal health in the concentrations emitted.

  14. Fran Barlow
    July 26th, 2010 at 11:42 | #14

    @Rationalist

    If I breath in CO, SOx, NOx, hydrocarbons (particularly benzene or aromatics) I get sick, get cancer or die. This does not occur with CO2 which is harmless to my personal health in the concentrations emitted.

    All this shows is that pollution comes in a variety of forms and that concentration is one of the measures of pollution. It also emphasises the human-dentred character of pollutants. Only those things that prejudice human life chances or convenience are pollutants.

    It’s in this sense that surplus CO2 is a pollutant. CO2 at no more than the historic 240-280 ppmv did not prejudice human life chances or convenience, as far as we can tell. Above this level however, it begins to saturate marine and terrestrial sinks (deprerssing their ability to regulate atmospheric inventories of CO2) and to force anomalies in the temperature and biosphere more generally that are on the whole, undesirable from a human perspective, and thus making it a pollutant.

    There’s an extensive discussion of this very question at Skeptical Science: Claim — CO2 is not a pollutant

    It’s important to note that many things of value (and perhaps essential) to human health in one quantity are lethal in other quantities (copper, oxygen, selenium and many vitamins come straight to mind) reminding us that the world is full of nuance.

  15. silkworm
    July 26th, 2010 at 12:35 | #15

    Fran, that Skeptical Science link is a good one. I’ve had arguments with denialists before on this issue, and I’ve provided links to scientific sites for them, but they never follow them up. Instead they keep reverting to their ideological junk science sites.

  16. wilful
    July 26th, 2010 at 15:30 | #16

    This does not occur with CO2 which is harmless to my personal health in the concentrations emitted.

    False.
    Anthony J McMichael, Rosalie E Woodruff, Simon Hales, Climate change and human health: present and future risks, The Lancet, Volume 367, Issue 9513, 11 March 2006-17 March 2006, Pages 859-869, ISSN 0140-6736, DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68079-3.
    (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6T1B-4J7B117-1/2/598a508fba2f54aaef55c1c886de184d)

  17. Fran Barlow
    July 26th, 2010 at 15:38 | #17

    @silkworm

    I’m always amused at how they post as if they are the first to note that “they were predicting an ice age in the 1970s” or “CO2 is not a pollutant/plant food” or “Al Gore is fat” or “polar bears can swim” or similarly compelling arguments.

    It underlines the kind of mentality their lot share. It’s hard to believe that they all believe their own guff, but the tragic part is that some probably do.

  18. MH
    July 27th, 2010 at 21:08 | #18

    First it was a straight cash handout, then roof insulation, then school halls, then free broadband to the nation and now a new car for everybody – is there no end to the moronic stupidity of this government?

  19. Stephen L
    August 2nd, 2010 at 22:25 | #19

    A bit late on this one, but the Obama policy had some merit as a stimulus package. The CO2 saved was something of a side-benefit, and therefore the cost per tonne was not that significant. There’s no sign Labor is pushing this as a stimulus – they’re supposedly easing back on such things – so it’s only point is to be a very expensive way of doing very little about carbon dioxide.

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