Ignorance of the science leads to bad decisions

I’ve been trying to find out what happened to the proposal to give poepl £2,000 towards a brand new car if they scrapped their old one. It seems strangely missing from all the online news feeds I have been looking at this afternoon. I’m quite angry about this proposal, because it is based on the flawed assumptions that new cars are always better on emissions than old ones, and that somehow making a car produces no emissions.

Actually, making a car is horrific on emissions, and more so since catalytic converters came on the scene. Those rare metals like Palladium are responsible for a lot of pollution when they are being refined. Unfortunately, politicians in western countries conveniently ignore pollution being made overseas when they champion cleaner air policies such as the introduction of cats. Politicians like to lie and bend the truth; nothing new there.

I remember a long time ago now receiving a magazine from an American great Uncle. I can’t remember what the magazine was, but I do remember two articles from it. One was about the engineering problems and potential solutions about building a bridge to join Alaska to Russia. This blog post, however, is not to be about that story. The other story was about a bill that had been forced through the American Congress in the supposed name of cleaner air. The article outlined why this was a foolish and ill-conceived idea.

It was nicknamed the ‘Junker bill’ or some similar name if I recall correctly. The idea was, that heavily polluting industries could, instead of cleaning up their own emissions, buy ‘pollution credits’ to offset their emissions by buying and crushing old cars, or ‘junkers’. The eroneous science behind this was that old cars produce more emissions, so by removing them from the roads, the cleaner emissions would offset the pollution the companies were making.

But, as the article pointed out, the science was totally wrong. A car when being produced causes the release of the same amount of pollution as that which would come from its exhaust in aproximately fifty years of running with average yearly mileages. So prematurely scrapping it was a woeful idea, quite apart from depriving poorer people from a source of cheap transportation. It also meant that reclaimed spare parts from auto salvage were harder to get, thus removing the recycling element that was already taking place when old vehicles were scrapped by conventional means (the car might have been shunted bad in the boot writing it off, but that front left wing is perfectly fine for repairing another car).

Of course, when I examined the detail of what was proposed and reported on in Saturday’s papers, there were many catches. In essence it is all about helping car producers and nothing to do with the environment. I just object to ‘the environment’ being touted as a legitamate reason for this scheme. It was also not clear whether only new cars reaching certain emission and MPG standards would be included. At any rate, I thought it was a deeply flawed and expensive scheme. As with all things the government seems to propose to help industries, it all falls back on another failed tax on us, and it is us as the taxpayer who are expected to pick up the tab. Again.

£2,000 doesn’t go far towards a new or nearly new car. That still leaves a hefty chunk to be found from a person’s own pocket to make up the difference. All that money is just disappearing off then to bloated corporations who are in this mess because they acted badly in the boom times. Also, as everyone does or should know, the biggest cost of a new car is not fuel, or even insurance, but depreceation. That is, buy a new car and merely the act of buying it can remove in some cases thousands off its value.

My car falls within the nine year mark for cars that can be traded in and crushed for a credit note. It returns a respectable 36-40MPG with careful driving, which is nearly as good as a new car 13 years its junior in the comparable sector of the market. The emissions from its exhaust are not that much higher than a comparible new car. What a damn shame to therefore crush a fully working car. I certainly wouldn’t. It would be another example of chronic waste of our resources just for the sake of bailing out an industry whose poor management decisions left it with over production, and fields of unsold cars that they should not have made in the first place. A boom built on easy credit was never going to last, and those who thought it would were fools.