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Scrappage scheme ‘fails to cut pollution’

Posted by Admin on February 22, 2010

Scrappage scheme ‘fails to cut pollution’

Trading in old bangers for new cars has been popular

Dan Trent and Laura Curtis

The scrappage scheme may save the car industry, but it won’t save the planet. New research shows that while car sales have leapt, as people trade in older vehicles for new ones, thanks to a £2,000 government incentive, the environmental impact of the scheme has been … nil or even negative.

Government figures suggest that the scheme reduces CO2 emissions: older cars scrapped in the scheme burnt an average of 233.6 gallons of petrol each year, compared with the average new car’s 172.4. That’s a decrease of about 26%, or just over 61 gallons of fuel per year.

But critics argue that the figure fails to take into account the energy used to build a new car in the first place. Research by the US Department of Energy calculates that the average new car sold in 2009 required the energy equivalent of 1,540 gallons of petrol to manufacture. The figure dwarfs the fuel savings of 61.2 gallons per year and means that it will take 25 years before the new car repays its “fuel debt”.

The true amount of energy used is likely to be higher still. The department’s figures refer to energy used to make all the parts of a car, such as rubber, fluids, glass, metal and battery as well as the energy required to mine and move those parts.


It does not take into account the energy used in scrapping older cars. Nor does it take into account the cost of transporting the new car from the point of manufacture to the point of sale. For example, the carbon footprint of the 60,960 fuel-efficient cars sold under the scrappage scheme by the South Korean brands Hyundai and Kia was swelled by the fact that most arrived here on bulk carriers. Merchant shipping accounted for 870m tonnes of global CO2 emissions last year, according to the UN’s International Maritime Organisation.

The findings have caused consternation among green campaigners, many of whom initially welcomed the scrappage scheme as a way of reducing emissions by encouraging drivers to opt for newer, more fuel-efficient cars.

Friends of the Earth says it questions whether the scheme is really as green as painted and is lobbying the government to focus on high-polluting older cars, rather than any car that is more than 10 years old. “A fundamental aim of the scheme should have been to encourage motorists to scrap gas guzzlers and replace them with cleaner cars,” said a spokesman.

The economic success of the scheme, however, is unarguable: car sales rose 30% last month and the government has extended it to the end of March.


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