Automobiles

Texas-Sized Automobile Subsidies

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Down in the Lone Star State, officials in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have come up with a Texas-sized subsidy to spur folks to retire old cars and buy cleaner new ones:

In an effort to improve air quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the state will offer up to a $3,500 bounty of sorts on vehicles that are more than 10 years old - pre-1996 cars and trucks that emit up to 30 times as much pollution as late-model vehicles.

Owners who agree to "retire" their vehicles will get $3,000 vouchers that can be used toward buying a new car or truck or a late-model used vehicle. If they opt to buy a hybrid, they can get $3,500. The program is strictly voluntary.

It's "strictly voluntary"--except that the funds to pay for it come from mandatory fees. This strikes me as a fairly clever way to line the pockets of relatively wealthy people, who will both be more likely to buy new cars and to work the system in the first place.

More to the point, the program apparently won't bring the area into compliance:

If half of the 40,000 vehicles come from the Dallas area, it could have a fairly substantial impact on air quality.

"Let's say emission amounts for old vehicles are 10 times as high as new vehicles," said Mr. Marston of Environmental Defense. "You multiply that 40,000 by 10 times and that starts to be a real number. In Dallas, that would be equivalent to about 10 percent of the vehicles on the road."

That alone is not enough to bring Dallas into compliance, but every step counts.

There has been a program in place, which offered $1,000 to "low-income" drivers to retire their cars ("low-income" was not defined in the story). It went widely unused and accumulated some $100 million in non-disbursed funds. So now more money will be available to more people:

"The old bill just didn't have juice. It was ineffective. We restructured the program to make it available to a wider population and to make it more enticing. EPA deadlines are looming, and we want to make our program as effective as we can," [state Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) said.]

Hey wait a second: Me thought steroids bad!

The full Dallas Morning News story lays out most of the reasons why this program won't be any more successful than the one it's replacing. The weird incentives regarding dealers are pretty interesting. And there's the question of people with a serviceable beater that's paid for deciding to pay $20,000 for a new car.

Hat tip: Michelle Shinghal.

No discussion of Texas-sized anything is complete without former Dallas Cowboys Roger Staubach's most bizarre moment so far:

NEXT: He'll Be Back

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  1. I bet Roger Staubach is hawking super-sized colostomy bags these days.
    Anyway, this reeks of another “those poor people sure need help” scheme by guilty white liberals.

  2. This strikes me as a fairly clever way to line the pockets of relatively wealthy people, who will both be more likely to buy new cars and to work the system in the first place.

    Rich people are more likely to buy new cars, but they are a hell of lot less likely to be driving around in 1996, 1992, or 1989-model cars in the first place.

    A $3000 voucher is likely to narrow the car-buying gap between richer and poorer people.

    The bill allows the vouchers to be used to buy used cars as well.

    So I don’t find the class-based criticism very convincing.

  3. Adolescent homo eroticism, lawn darts and morale hazard, all in one post?

    …must be Reason.com!

  4. Sounds good to me. Now if they made the vouchers mileage-based, that is, gave out even bigger ones to people who bought cars that got say 50, 60, 70 miles to the gallon (even more for those who switch to scooters and bicycles) and funded these generous vouchers by taxing the fuck out of every moron who buys a “farm” truck or Hummer for city cruising, DFW could make some real progress.

  5. Isn’t there also a hybrid tax credit?

    If I lived in Dallas I’d be tempted to buy the cheapest old car I can find (out of state if necessary), register it, then cash it in for a voucher to buy a hybrid.

    Seems like somebody will be able to find a way to arbitrage this, unless there’s a limit on the number of times you can do it, or how long you must own the old car before getting the voucher.

  6. I wonder how this would impact charities that depend on auctioning off old beaters that folks have donated? I always donate my cars to Volunteers of America when I’m done with them. (I haven’t paid more than $2,000 for a vehicle in 15 years.)

  7. That’s was my first thought too Dr. T.

    (BTW, I’m here. I think that old LFV link is dead.)

  8. I would personally pay a subsidy to keep people older than 75 off the road, especially if they drive large cars that can flatten dozens of people more effectively than a Toyota Echo can.

  9. Just end the subsidies people already get for buying trucks like hummers and other products of Big Shitbox.

  10. Roger will do anything for a buck. My choice for his most bizarre moment is when he joined the Hartford Whalers Board of Directors. Ran the franchise right into the ground.

  11. At least in California, you have to have owned the car for a year, and it has to fail smog, then they sometimes give you $1,000 for it. You don’t have to buy another car.

    It Texas, they should combine it with a gun buyback program – you get $100 for your old gun, but you have to use the money to buy a new gun.

  12. Wow, is it possible that anyone wrote, said, or drew something about something being big that didn’t have sexual undertones? GK Chesterton was right when he wrote:

    What had happened to the human imagination, as a whole, was that the whole world was coloured by dangerous and rapidly deteriorating passions; by natural passions becoming unnatural passions. Thus the effect of treating sex as only one innocent natural thing was that every other innocent natural thing became soaked and sodden with sex. For sex cannot be admitted to a mere equality among elementary emotions or experiences like eating and sleeping. The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant. There is something dangerous and disproportionate in its place in human nature, for whatever reason; and it does really need a special purification and dedication. The modern talk about sex being free like any other sense, about the body being beautiful like any tree or flower, is either a description of the Garden of Eden or a piece of thoroughly bad psychology, of which the world grew weary two thousand years ago.

  13. I bet Roger Staubach is hawking super-sized colostomy bags these days.

    Real estate mogul… http://www.staubach.com/index.asp

  14. Odd-but-true: the only discussions at Reason of the Texas-sized boondoggle known as the TransTexasCorridor have occured in two comments, and in none of the articles or blog postings. Odd!

  15. If I lived in Dallas I’d be tempted to buy the cheapest old car I can find (out of state if necessary), register it, then cash it in for a voucher to buy a hybrid.

    I know people who’ve done something very similar with those gun buy-backs.

  16. What’s brilliant about this is that the cap appears to be 25k for the price of the new car. To my understanding, a bone stock Prius comes in at 23k, so that leaves one only 2k worth of options before being disqualified from the subsidy. I think a saturn vue green line would also work, but just barely, and that’s it. Well crafted, Dallas legislature, well crafted.

  17. Here is Monday’s testimony from Corridor Watch.

  18. Well crafted, Dallas legislature, well crafted.

    Dallas is big, but not that big.

  19. I hate to agree with LoneWacko about anything, but the silence over that highway boondoggle really does stand out, when you consider the wailing and rending of garments we get every time someone proposes expanding rail transit.

  20. A ’95 is an old car? Doesn’t that depend on the make and owner maintenance? Cars age differently from one another, as humans do.

  21. Reason’s own studies done years ago by Lynn Scarlett showed clearly that in California the oldest 10% of the cars on the road contributed half the pollution. Cars five years old and newer virtually none of the pollution. And because of that work, California ditched the annual smog inspections on cars less than five years old.

    Said all that to say that the alternative to tax subsidies is a requirement, like Californicate’s, that your car must meet the smog standards or you cannot register it.

    Or, maybe you can get Union Oil to go back to buying junkers (gross polluters) for $500.00 each like they did for a while out here.

  22. A ’95 is an old car? Doesn’t that depend on the make and owner maintenance?

    My brother in law owns my old 1972 Chevy El Camino. 350 ci, fat cam, hi-rise Offy, Holley 780 dual feed, headers, four speed……

    When it was still required to be smogged it could pass a smog test WITHOUT any of the factory installed smog devices (AIR pump, etc) but the law said…..

    So, yes, it does depend on how the car is taken care of. I also thought 1995 was kind of on the newer side.

    I’ve got a 96, a 2002, and a 2007. The 02 just had it’s first smog test and didn’t even bump the needle even though it has almost 120k on it. Ditto the 96, though it has less than 80k.

  23. Thanks to Down in Dallas for clearing up whether Roger needs a colostomy bag.
    His sister lives here in Sinincincinnati, and I chat with his brer-in-law on the street fairly regularly.
    The family, in my opinion, is closer to sainthood than Mother Theresa ever was.
    And, Jamie Kelly, Roger’s skittle is still a whole lot more “super” than your skittle.

  24. I think nick missed out on one important part of the DMN article – if Dallas can meet federal air standards, residents will have their annual auto inspection fees cut by a third. So not knowing any of the specifics, if they realistically think that this measure can help to get there and can implement the plan in an efficient manner, it might actually be cheaper for all car owners with this new policy in place.

  25. Heh — “bowl games” — cute.

  26. The state of California has offered me $650 to buy my ’84 Honda, on the assumption that anything that old is a polluter, but it still passes the smog test easily.

  27. if Dallas can meet federal air standards, residents will have their annual auto inspection fees cut by a third.

    The emissions inspection is $39.75 and is required on cars 2-24 years old. The price of inspection on a brand new car is $23.50, covers the initial 2 years, and it is added to your total cost. Am I the only one to think it in your face robbery to charge a purchaser for inspecting a new car?

    From the article: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had no specific comment on the Texas program, nor did it have data comparing new-car emissions with those of old vehicles.”

    There is also a requirement that the car being traded have passed the emissions test in the previous 15 months. It doesn’t make sense that they would be trying to improve air quality by taking compliant cars off the street.

    There is about $100m of our tax money in this fund right now and they are hoping to put 40,000 new (read probably not paid for) cars on the streets.

    My prediction is that people are going to hear about this program, think of it as free money, trade their perfectly compliant, paid for cars in for a car payment that they can’t afford. On that car, they will pay for the inspection sticker at full price every year. Air quality will not improve and the cost of said inspection will rise. Cue single mom who lost her car to the bank in 5,4,3,…

    Then we will need another tax for public transportation that will be claimed to provide the “dual benefit” of better air quality and transportation for the single mom who can’t get to work without a car.

    Do I seem terribly bitchy this morning?

  28. miche,

    Living in Dallas would be enough to make me bitchy EVERY morning. (Houston resident. Gotta love the biggest city in the country with no zoning.)

    I’ll also say I loves me my ’75 K-5 Blazer. The original factory emission control is an evap can only. I dunno if it can pass emissions or not. Since it’s 30 years old, I don’t have to have it inspected for emissions and I’m not about to do it just to satisfy my curiosity.

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