The Car Allowance Rebates System (CARS), popularly known as the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program, was put into effect in 2009 to take older, less efficient vehicles off the road and replace them with vehicles that get better gas mileage and release fewer tailpipe emissions.
The Obama administration said the system would provide a long-term economic boost to U.S car companies but it was just another poorly thought out government program that turned out to be a fiasco.
The program didn’t account for the total lifecycle of the scrapped vehicles, or the environmental cost of manufacturing the new vehicles that were sold.
When the incentive was offered, automakers sold nearly 690,000 vehicles in cities with lots of used cars, only to see sales drop again once the program expired.
The program's first mistake seems to have been its focus on car shredding, instead of car recycling. With 690,000 vehicles traded in, that's a pretty big mistake.
According to the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), automobiles are almost completely recyclable, down to their engine oil and brake fluid.
But not the “Cash for Clunkers” cars that were never sent to recycling facilities and the cars’ engines were instead destroyed by federal mandate, in order to prevent dealers from illicitly reselling the vehicles later.
The remaining parts of each car could then be put up for auction, but program guidelines also required that after 180 days, no matter how much of the car was left, the parts had to be sent to a junkyard and shredded.
Obama's ‘Cash for Clunkers' was not an environmental success story.