I was so excited to hear about this program thinking that our 19 year old Honda Civic might actually count as a clunker. But unfortunately for us and this rebate program, our car doesn’t count as a gas guzzling clunker.

I received this great article from Sara Gutterman who weighed in on the debate. Is this program a good start to solving the greater issue of carbon dioxide emissions and global warming?

What do you think?

One of the top news stories this week is the fate of the Car Allowance Rebate System, A.K.A., ‘Cash for Clunkers’.  The program, which offers $3,500 to $4,500 in rebates to automobile owners who trade in an old car for a new one with higher fuel economy, was created to prop up the faltering American auto industry and improve the average fuel efficiency of vehicles across the nation.

Cash for Clunkers has been so popular with consumers that the initial $1 billion allocated to the program was exhausted in a matter of days.  While the program provided a tangible financial stimulus for auto makers, dealers, and consumers alike, the future of the program seemed uncertain—that is, until the Senate joined the House yesterday in extending the program, funding it with another $2 billion, which is expected to last through the summer and subsidize the purchase of approximately 500,000 cars.

Critics argue that the Cash for Clunkers program is a give-away to auto makers, creates unnecessary debt, and that it misappropriates taxpayers’ money to a band-aid fix that doesn’t create a long-term financial solution.  Environmentalists contend that the embodied energy and additional waste created by destroying the clunkers negate the benefits of getting the cars off the road.  From a short-term perspective, both of these arguments have validity.  But, in certain ways, each of them misses the point.

The larger issue here is not the average 61% increase in fuel economy (or 10 M.P.G. increase) that the new cars represent over the clunkers or the average $850 per year that drivers will save in fuel costs.

What we should be focusing on is the need for an arsenal of solutions like this one to adequately address the immense emissions problem caused by our transportation system, which, according to the EPA, accounts for nearly 40% of our national greenhouse gas emissions.  To achieve the kind of results that would be needed to satisfy the energy and climate legislation passed by the House (which requires carbon dioxide emissions to drop 83% by 2050), we can’t just focus on getting cleaner vehicles on the road, we need to look at larger changes in our transportation system, travel behavior, and regulatory strategies.