Coupons for Clunkers - Ewaste Program

The "cash for clunkers" program got a lot of press - positive and negative. The negatives (that the $4500 requirement does not allow car parts, repair, or resale) are mostly from Congress rushing into the program. Someone said they should require the clunkers be recycled. The problem is that 10 MPG less than the car you are buying is not much of a definition for "obsolete". A minivan getting 23 MPG is perfectly acceptable in a small commute situation, some new mom getting started who only drives 3 miles per day (like Middlebury) would be really happy to get a nice Honda Odyssey for $4000. But that Odyssey could also be traded in for a Prius, meeting the rules of the "clunker" definition. So the Odyssey has to be scrapped, and the young mother will have more difficulty getting a starter car.

Sound familiar? That's basically how California SB20, Maine's producer takeback, and other "stewardship" states are functioning. The root cause is the same as the Cash For Clunkers' misstep... Hubris. When people have a basically good idea that gets more traction than it should because of a lack of dialectic in their own intellectual community and because a problem has been over-dramaticized (e.g. E-Waste mountains), they become intoxicated by their own momentum.

I'm sure that the people who drafted the Cash for Clunkers program idea were good people. Some of them may have tugged back ("Hey, if we allow the Honda to be qualified for resale for $4000, we will only have used $500 of our C4C money, and be able to get the next clunker, which might be a real doozy"). But all too soon, the momentum swings towards passage, and people are told "now or never", and we wind up giving a huge tax subsidy to a Korean auto manufacturer.

American Retroworks Inc is rolling out its own version of "Cash for Clunkers" in Mexico. Actually, it's "Coupons for Clunkers". If a Mexican family brings in an old piece of unrepariable junk computer, they get $10 off the price of a USA TV (like the newer ones replaced by digital),,, or computer. This will create the same incentive for trading in. But since we are creating a market for the reuse value, we'll be able to get far more true clunkers off of the roadside.

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