Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More on Cash for Clunkers

A quick update. I received an email from Melissa a very smart professor of strategy at one of the country’s leading business school. In the past she has used some of the blog material to explain energy and sustainability to her MBA students. She asked me in her email if could opine of the added carbon emissions that occurred simply to replace clunkers with slightly more efficient vehicles. I did the math quickly and responded to her a couple of days ago.

This is my email response to her

Melissa You are so right. The 2 miles per gallon gained on the 150,000 (Edmunds) vehicles is worth about 50 gallons of gasoline per year per vehicle. This equals 7.5 million gallons a year. The CO2 saved is 150 million pounds a year or 75,000 tons a year of saved CO2. To recycle and produce steel (most efficient from CO2 perspective) is about 2 tons of CO2 per ton of steel. The new cars have 1 ton of steel (minimum) so we have 300,000 tons of added CO2 just in recycling the steel. That equals four years worth of the saved emissions. Add the plastic, aluminum, chrome, rubber, paint, etc and we have 6 to 8 years. If the steel came from the average steel mill (mix of recycle and virgin) it would take 8 years to recover the CO2 just in the steel. If the steel came from a steel mill that uses virgin iron ore and coke it would take 12 years to recover the CO2 just in the steel. A far better program would have been to give each clunker owner free gasoline for 2 years if they used the clunkers to car pool to work with other clunker owners.

An update on stocks that I determined were hype. Raser (RZ) is down to a $1.11 I dinged them and their hype of the 100 mpg Hummer a few months back when they hyped their stock to $4.00 a share. Verenium (VRNM) has gone through a reverse stock split and is close to dying. I dinged them and their cellulosic ethanol six months back. A 123 Battery (AONE) that I dinged a couple of weeks back when they first went public has lost all of their initial gain. I predict they will be A down for the 10 count within three years. Just today Mark a very smart MBA asked me if we needed an ETF (electronically traded fund) of a basket of green companies. I responded that a basket of basket cases is basket squared. Folks don’t believe all that glitters is gold, true green will not lose its sheen.


  1. Linds -- I drive a 10 year old Infiniti QX4. It's in good running condition and has been well cared for. I only get about 15 MPG. My wife drives a much larger 2 year old Honda Odyssey that gets 25 MPG. I think yours (or Edmunds) estimate of 2 MPG is far off the mark. A much more realistic estimate is 10 or more MPG improvement per trade-in. I bet the pay-back is 5x (or more) shorter than you've estimated.

  2. Hi Raelo I love those QX4s they weigh 2.5 tons and get 15 mpg great engineering by the firm that equals 1 over 0. OK lets assume we traded the QX4 for the Odyssey and you drive 12,000 miles a year. Your clunker would need 800 gallons a year and the other van would need 480 and you would save 320 gallons or 3.2 tons a year of CO2. In 4 years you may recover the CO2 in your case. Now lets assume you can seat 5 in the QX4 and each day you give 4 of your co workers a ride to work in your 1 over 0. We would save about 6 gallons of gas a day by your coworkers not driving. About 1,500 gallons a year and 15 tons of CO2 a year. 5 x the saving you claim by getting rid of a 1 over 0 I stand corrected about the 2 mpg increase it was perhaps 10 in some cases. Thanks for the interest in the blog

  3. Lindsay... As always, very interesting and incomplete... Cash for Clunkers had nothing to do with saving the planet... You know it and I know it... It was simply a government-paid marketing deal for the auto industry to keep them afloat and to boast consumer and investor confidence which is extremely important to the economy... And cash for clunkers WORKED on every front... Edmunds analysis is extremely flawed because it made the same mistake the creators of mortgage-backed securities made... They both used historical data of one set of consumers to explain the behavior of an entirely different set of consumers in the present... If we have learned anything in the past two years, we know that this is DUMB and DANGEROUS... For Edmunds to assume consumers would behave the same today in the midst of an epic downturn in the economy as if everything was "rosy" is preposterous... Edmunds also assumed luxury car buyers and cash-for-clunker car buyers are the same animals... Really? I've stayed at the Ritz-Carlton and I've stayed at Motel 6, and let me tell you, the guests ain't the same... Second, there are already plenty of "free gasoline for car pool" programs (see 511.org RIDESHARE) that people ignore... But you want to rail against the prez and congress because you feel people will change their current behavior, if the government just "ups the ante"... Get real... Lastly, the bit about the CO2 balance between the cars produced and the gasoline saved forgets to mention that the cars were already made... The auto industry didn't crank out new cars, it simply sold off its growing inventory... If the future inventory grows to the pre-"cash for clunker" level, the CO2 balance will be relevant otherwise, it too misses the mark... But hey, what do I know...

  4. Question 1
    I enjoy your blog, but do not know how to be green and stay true to my American upbringing. Is there such thing as a cool green car without
    paying Fisker or Tesla prices. I've attached a link so we are clear on what "cool" is (http://www.autoblog.com/gallery/sema-2009-kevin-morgan-trans-am-concept).

    Question 2
    How does my current green status compare to other supposedly environmentally conscious Prius drivers. I frequntly pass them in my 2000 Trans Am WS6, and I only drive ~6000 miles/yr.

    Thanks for your guidance.

  5. Blair good to see you are alive and well and still an Obama man even if most of NJ and Virginia feel he is a dead end. I love you arm chair libs that are into liberating CO2. Conservative and conservation are from the same root. You used to stay at the Ritz and are now only staying at Motel 6, life is tough for us all under the Dems.

    Charlie you are smart to keep the 2000 Trans Am, all the carbon from the steel and plastic has long slipped into the atmosphere. If you get 18 mpg while passing the Prius on the freeway you are emitting slightly more CO2 per year than a Prius owner who drives 15,000 miles a year as you only drive 6,000 miles a year but in style. Charlie is a proud American who drives an American original. Blair please tell the dems to give out "cash for crumbs" as we are headed toward that standard of living. It is 1789 and the people have no bread so the leaders say give them crumbs

  6. Lindsay... Good see another Republican who misses the irony of his own words... Conservative equals conservation? Really?... Record deficits and recessions from Reagan then Bush... Balanced budget and record prosperity from Clinton... Get it right... The only thing Conservatives are interested in conserving is their "way of life" you know the "real america"... Thank goodness your "rogue" former beauty queen, former 3/4-term governor, former veep nominee will come along to return us to the "good old days"... Real America, don't worry, this green thing is a fad...

  7. Hey Blair oil consumpton went up much more under Clinton and Gore compared with Bush and Chaney. So who were the conservation guys. Bush inherited a recession caused by Bill's dot com bubble after Alfalfa invented the internet. Obama is a one termer if he does not deal with one thing rather than being God to the whole world. He needs to get the economy straight. One year later he is a dismal failure. His campaign was all about his middle initial H being for Hope. He was BHO = Best Hopeful Option. We all know hope is not a business strategy you must have learned that at Bezerkley. Sarah is great and so what if the 18 year old ex son in law does not like her and she can see Russia on a clear day. She pointed out how pathetic all politicians are. I am all for a third party and my campaign slogan will be "Be Green Vote Leveen" if you stand against me you can have the slogan "If you Care vote for Blair" let's see who gets more votes. You may be a dem but I still like you.

  8. Lindsay... Bush-Cheney will go down in history as the most inept administration of the 21st century... And the Wasilla hillbilly doesn't have an ex son-in-law... They were NEVER married, but at least they weren't cousins (I think)... I'm not surprised that you think Obama is a fraud, he appears to good to be true... He's far too earnest to be president... He actually thinks he can make a positive difference in the lives of people... What an idiot... People are savages... As the Joker said "when the chips are down, civilized people, they'll eat each other"... I'm not sure what I've done to deserve a friend such as yourself, but one never grows so rich as to afford the lost of a friend... Now, get back to sucking the life out of Genentech(Roche) before its all gone...

  9. Blair during Clinton Gore 8 year reign the usage of oil increased by 15% from 1992 to 2000 During Bush Cheney the consumption of oil decreased by 2% from 2000 to 2008 Who is greener Cheney or Gore? Of course the numbers show Chaney to be the green VP and Gore to be full of gangrene. You sucked on the teat of DNA for 10 years so why deprive me of my livlihood Old BHO is not a fraud he is just not worthy of a Nobel prize, and he will have to prove he worthy of being called a great president. What is he? he is my president even though he was not my choice. I admire his office and none of you dems ever admired the office of GW you all hated the man and hated the office. Blair this is not about friendship it is about the preservation of western civilization and I pray each night BHO has the desire to do this. I know he has a high IQ and speaks boldly. But it is time for action not words. God bless the president and the people of the united states As for Gore who is now a private citizen with the carbon footprint of big foot, he simply makes me sick.


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