Saturday, 8 August 2009

The delights of broken windows

... especially with unintended consequences:

Under the German program, which started in February, anyone who scraps a car that is at least nine years old can apply for a government subsidy of $3,600 toward the purchase of a new car. The German federal government has earmarked about $7 billion for the plan, which has been so popular that car sales in Germany could hit a 10-year high of 3.5 million vehicles this year.

The plan is meant to help scrap dealers too. They get the old cars for free, the idea being that they can then earn money by selling the scrap metal to steel companies. But with scrap prices taking a dive, some dealers are eying the bigger profits that come from selling the cars abroad. "The problem is that there is no supervision of the companies to ensure that they actually scrap the cars," says Frank Wolff, director of the environmental-crime division of the Hamburg police. "These firms are supposed to turn the cars into scrap, but instead, some are selling them to buyers in Africa."

Over the past few weeks, Hamburg police at the shipyards have turned up 43 cars that had been declared scrapped but were illegally earmarked for export to buyers in Africa and Eastern Europe. The numbers so far seem small, but some law-enforcement experts warn that as many as 50,000 cars destined for the scrap heap have already been sold illegally — at the expense of German taxpayers.

The problem for the police is that German lawmakers were in such a hurry to approve the money to boost the car industry that they did not create sufficient controls to prevent abuse of the system. Dealers are supposed to scrap the cars, but if they don't, it's only considered a minor violation, not a criminal offense. "It just opens the door for abuse," says Ronald Schulze, an official at the Federation of German Detectives. "We can't charge them with fraud because lawmakers failed to define the crime."

Oh yeah! Go clunkers! Don't you just love it when law-makers fuck up like this? And ream the taxpayer for something stupid? And leave the door open to abuse to make a stupid idea even worse?

The only thing that reassures me is that our own government is nowhere near as incompetent as the Ger ... oh, shit.


woman on a raft said...

Someone who understands these matters is going to have to explain to me why it is not a reasonable form of recycling to move cars to a place where some extra value can be squeezed out of them, coincidentally supporting car dealers by allowing them to get the best price for a resource. Are car dealers not doing proper jobs as much as the manufacturer?

It would be dumping if there was an African car manufacturing economy, but as far as I know (I accept I may be in ignorance) there is not.

In any case, if you wanted greenery, people should be keeping their cars for longer rather than taxpayers subsidizing over-consumption. How come the Porrits aren't shouting?

Aiden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aiden said...

indeed. Turning a perfectly good running 2001 car in to a cubic meter of steel rather than selling it to Africa is helping what exactly? Surely the scrap dealers are behaving rationally. All cars in Germany have to pass regular emissions tests, so any real old clunkers would have already been garbage collected.

Mark Wadsworth said...

What WOAR and Aiden say.

But I guess their argument is that a) Pollution in Africa is as bad as pollution in Germany and b) Africa has to be nannyed and hectored into being 'green' and 'sustainable' and kept barely alive with aid payments, rather than doing its best on the free market (which includes buying good quality bangers from Germany).

WV: mention

Chalcedon said...

The problem with law makers is that they keep on making laws. We have enough fucking laws already. Way, way too many. This bunch of cretins in power have created more laws and offences than the last 10 governments put together. They really just should fuck off and leave us in peace.

Call me Infidel said...

If you have any kind of mechanical sympathy you probably wont want to watch the embedded video in this article.

A perfectly serviceable car is tortured to destruction. Nevermind shipping it to Africa I'm sure there are plenty of poor people who would snatch your arm off to get a Volvo in this condition.