Tuesday 10 May 2022

Cash for CluNZkers

The US Cash for Clunkers programme was a mistake. Intended as stimulus programme for the auto industry, it failed

Almost all of the effect was a bringing forward of purchases that would have happened anyway, so the effect was very short-lived. 

It also failed as an environmental programme. Looking only at the CO2 reductions, the cost-per-ton was $106-$335, USD, 2009. Inflation, exchange rate, tons to tonnes: that's $245-$772/tonne in current NZD. Or between three and ten times the going price of carbon abatement in the ETS.

The US didn't and doesn't have an ETS, so the scheme could reduce net emissions - albeit at very high cost. NZ has an ETS, transport is in the covered sector, and there's no domestic auto industry to stimulate even if you wanted to, so a cash-for-clunkers scheme here would be especially stupid. 

Richard Meade had a chat with Sean Plunket over on The Platform yesterday

Sean had got wind of that a cash-for-cluNZkers scheme is here in the offing, and could be announced at the budget. 

It'll be fun to see how the legislation handles this one, and whether they even try putting a cost-per-tonne on it. 

Whoever drafted the leg will have to have lots of things to think about. On a few short chats with others on it:

Could I buy a clunker now, expecting a voucher that's worth more than the cost of the car? Should the legislation anticipate that and restrict the voucher to cars purchased at least a year ago? 

Sounds like it'll be means-tested: only poorer households can do it. But they can on-sell any EV they buy to a higher income household right? And that higher-income household might help them front the rest of the cost? 

If you have a university-aged kid, could you strike a deal with that kid's household? Like, buy the kid the clunker now, let her turn it in for the voucher, loan the kid the rest of the money for the car (or top up a zero percent student loan), and have occasional use of the car that would, for convenience, be regularly parked at your house? It could quickly undo all the effort at means testing, and policing could be interesting. 

It'll also be fun to watch the price of used cars, and of EVs, given supply chain issues. 

Oh - and remember - because the ETS has a binding cap, the scheme achieves precisely nothing for emission reduction. The only thing that cuts net emissions covered by the cap is a reduction in the cap. The regulations aren't necessary to cut the cap, and cutting the cap is sufficient to reduce net emissions - and presumably does so for a fraction of the cost of a Cash-for-CluNZkers scheme. 

It just keeps getting stupider. 

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