Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Would you scrap it or save it?

I've read several articles this week celebrating the success of the ‘cash for scrap’ scheme. Apparently more than 60,000 cars have been ordered since its start in late April. But these figures worry me because that means that there are 60,000 serviceable cars that have been sent for scrappage. What happens to them?

You would think that we would be in favour of this, anything to make your money go further and you get a greener car to boot. This offer sounds too good to miss. So why don’t I get it? Could someone please explain the sense in this to me?

I know I am not an economist and could possibly be totally missing the point, but this all seems to be counter-intuitive to me; it just doesn’t make sense. Why are we offering money to people to scrap a car that is still working - in order to buy a new one.

Most people that drive a car of this age are not in a position to buy a new car. Ok the government will put a thousand in the pot and the car manufacturers will put a thousand in the pot, so we will get £2,000 off the price of a new car. Please note that is a new car, not a car that will be new to you. We are talking brand new, and this is where the problem lies. Even with £2,000 off the price of a new car you will still have to find at the very least £3,000 to buy the car. £3,000 that most people can’t afford.

My son drives a car that is ancient; he drives it because that is all he can afford. He wouldn’t be able to find another £3,000 so he would have to borrow…and there we go again. Borrowing what we can’t afford is what got us into this mess in the first place.

And what happened to helping the environment and living a more sustainable life. Seems to be that when money is tight our ethics become somewhat shaky. Because if you think about it what are we doing to the environment by scrapping perfectly serviceable cars? I understand the argument that theoretically new cars are more environmentally friendly to run; however what is the environmental cost of taking serviceable cars away and crushing them up - and reusing them how?

We are not just looking at the cost to the environment between running an old car versus running a new car; the cost is bigger than that. We should be taking into account the cost of scrapping a working car as well, because I am sure you will find that running an older car is probably better in the long run.

What are the carbon emissions in manufacturing a new car against the carbon emissions of keeping an old car going efficiently? Why are the government not forcing the car industry to improve the efficiency of engines through tax breaks reducing the usage of petrol?

If the government really wanted to help us it should be offering that £2,000 to pay for keeping an older car roadworthy for longer, helping to mend and maintain it as greenly as possible, not throwing money at us to encourage us to keeping consuming and wasting perfectly good resources. More to the point the government should not be encouraging us to get loans to buy new cars. It should be focussing on getting the banks to lend on mortgages again and helping people to have a roof over their head.

I understand the argument for spending our way out of a recession, but unfortunately is it exactly that behaviour that got us into this mess.

More to the point we are just talking scrap, not even salvaging or reusing parts. The very term scrap indicates wasting.

I realise that mending cars will not mend the car industry, but there seems to be a conflict between shoring up an industry that allegedly harms the environment and encouraging people to buy cars that they don’t really need. I thought we were meant to be encouraging people to get out of their cars and back on to public transport. What could an injection of money do to our train services? We could probably create work for those being laid off from the car factories.

Is this not the contemporary conflict in a nutshell; throwing out the old to buy the new, which did not need to be made in the first place, to keep an economy going based on borrowing that is not needed. This is not sustainability on any level – it is waste for economic reasons and nothing more.


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