New York Times: Gas Tax Better Than Cash for Clunkers

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
new york times gas tax better than cash for clunkers

Huh. And there I was thinking that The New York Times was pro-Cash for Clunkers. Now that all’s said and done (well, done), the paper slates the government program as . . . wait for it . . . inefficient. (Well, they did call for a “well-designed” program.) Post-mortem, the Gray Lady does the math. “On average, cars are driven 12,000 miles per year, according to government statistics. Considering that the traded-in clunkers had an average fuel economy of 15.8 m.p.g. while the new ones deliver 24.9 m.p.g., a swap saved some 278 gallons of gas per year — which would have released almost 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide when burned. Assuming the clunkers would have been driven four more years, the $4,200 average rebate removed 11.2 tons of carbon from the atmosphere, at a cost of some $375 per ton. If they would have been driven five years, the carbon savings cost $300 per ton. And if drivers drive their sleek new wheels more than they drove their old clunkers, the cost of removing carbon from the atmosphere will be even higher.” So how does that compare with the Times’ new red-headed, planet-cooling stepchild?

To put this in perspective, an allowance to emit a ton of CO2 costs about $20 on the European Climate Exchange. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a ton of carbon would be valued at $28 under the cap-and-trade program in the clean energy bill passed by the House in June.

TTAC’s tackled this issue before (coincidentally enough), but it’s news to the Times. And rather than crunch some more numbers, the paper calls for a national gas tax—again, still—and calls it good.

The best tool to induce Americans to drive more fuel-efficient cars would be a gas tax that provided rebates for low-income drivers. Another, though inferior, alternative — if Congress couldn’t face the political risks of a gas tax — would be a program that provided a rebate for drivers of clean cars while imposing a fee on drivers of gas hogs.

In any case, as environmental policy, it’s just too expensive to buy clunkers to take them off the road.

So now you tell us.

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  • Geeber Geeber on Sep 01, 2009
    psharjinian: ...that temperatures are going up lockstep with industrialization, and that the change stands a good chance of carrying a high social and economic cost). No, they are not moving upward with industrialization. Temperatures have varied widely throughout the earth's history.

  • G.D. G.D. on Sep 01, 2009

    geeber: Not sure where you are getting your facts, but it is scientifically incontrovertible that industrialization has pushed global temperatures up above the expected trend. Check these graphs:

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