A recent study by Consumer Energy Report on the Cash-for-Clunkers program offers some additional alternatives for how the cash might have been spent. After counting how many low-mileage SUVs and trucks were purchased through the program, Lisa Margonelli offers some other alternatives.
That's an 8-fold increase in annual fuel savings. Maybe not as bold as my earlier "modest proposal", but still a useful perspective on how to spend money effectively if the objective was to reduce our dependence on gasoline.
“For that much money, we could have gotten a lot more,” says Lisa Margonelli, who directs the New America Foundation’s Energy Productivity Initiative. “Consider this: Cash for Clunkers only required a fuel economy increase of 2 mpg over the original car, so the total mandated gas savings was about 38 million gallons of gas. The auto companies can raise the fuel economy of cars on the assembly line by that much at a cost of $500 per vehicle. So, we could have given our $2.87 billion to the auto companies to upgrade 5.5 million cars by 2 mpg or more, and bought ourselves a yearly fuel savings of 303 million gallons of gas.”