Letter from Italy: New Mobility for a New Economy? More cash for clunkers foolishness

Cash for clunkers is a worldwide virus often presented as a medicine for a very sick patient. (See World Streets ‘Cash for Clunkers‘, 12 Aug. 09, ). This dispatch just in from Enrico Bonfatti, editor of our sister publication, Nuova Mobilità, translates an article posted in N/M in Italian last Friday. Apparently the Italian political establishment is no better at this than any of the dozen or so governments who are desperately scrambling to hold on to an irredeemable past. At high cost to taxpayers and to the future.

Following the World Streets 12 August post on the funds and impacts of the US program for scrapping old cars for new– (Mr. Meter on America’s “Cash for Clunkers” — we invite you to read the analysis from an Italian perspective as presented by Italy’s “NoAuto” association in response to the Minister of Economic Development Claudio Scajola’s proposal to relaunch of the 2010 program of incentives for the purchase of “green cars” in support of the country’s ailing car industry, the estimated cost of which is in the area of € 400-500 millions. What will we get for our money?

Rome. 8 October 2009.

Yes for new mobility — no to incentives for the car

In these days the media are back to talking about actions in support of the automobile. The association NoAuto believes that a new round of incentives to subsidize new car purchases would be a grave error in both industrial and transport policies.

1. Because such incentives produce only temporary effects.
The European car market is saturated, and the only markets expected to grow are those of the large emerging countries (China, India, Brazil, etc.). However these are and will be served by local production. It is therefore economically wrong and socially irresponsible to continue to support an industry in a permanent structural decline. What is needed instead is a vast program of industrial reconstruction and reshaping for the future.

2. Because the car-oriented mobility system is in the midst of a permanent crisis.
The historic promises of the car (speed, flexibility, comfort) are now a mirage. Our cities are gripped by congestion and made unhealthy and unsafe by pollution, noise and accidents: all the direct result of growing figures in car flows, which in recent years has been repeatedly supported by incentives to purchase newer and “greener” car. Thus supporting the purchase of more cars at the public’s expense is wrong from the transport policy’s point of view too.

3. A European solution
For these reasons, NoAuto believes that we would do better to scrap these costly and ultimately ineffective stop-gap measures, and instead design and launch an innovative multi-partner, public-private reconstruction plan for improved new mobility, to be applied primarily to the urban and local scale .

NoAuto believes that such a plan should created and promoted not only nationally, but could be developed into a powerful and timely European policy, that could include budget improvements for the Action Plan for Urban Mobility that the European Commission has just issued on September, 30th.

In brief, the extraordinary plan for new mobility in and around our cities should rely on two main lines of action:

1. Creation of a National (or European) Fund for New Mobility . . .
to support local authorities’ plans to improve public transport, walking, cycling and innovative transport modes (carsharing, city logistics, etc.). At the regional level funds should not be aimed to support single modes of transport, but rather should be strategically integrated into overall policy reforms plans and policies (packages of measures), and looking beyond the city centers to deal with the problems of the surrounding lower density areas as well.

At the national level the legislative framework of “Piani Urbani della Mobilità” (Urban Mobility Plans) which was introduced many years ago, should now be brought up to date and modified to meet new needs (not so much new, as uncovered) and – most of all – to find the necessary funds as will be required to support the transition process over the ten to fifteen years directly ahead. This funding of first rate new mobility programs for our cities and the country can easily come out of savings that can result from the rationalization of the much larger amounts which traditionally get spent on big transportation infrastructure projects, which themselves support inefficient use of resources. It is time to put “old mobility” (the no-choice, car-based system) behind us and move up to efficient mobility.

At the European level the New Mobility Plan should be dealt with in a separate section within the European funding schemes for local or regional transportation networks.

2. A European plan to convert the car industry, . . .
which accompanies the transition to the new urban mobility system. A plan built on three pillars:

a) The strategic use of unemployment wages and other kinds of “social bumpers” and professional training to avoid “social butchery” among workers in the sector, while at the same time facilitating the transition to a New Mobility Agenda and the jobs that will go with it;

b) Placement of extraordinary orders by administrations and public companies for the development of green transport modes and products (trains, metro, tram , buses, vans, taxis, bicycles, including by grouping purchases to drive down unit costs);

c) Funding to support to integration of producers of components, services and systems for the new urban mobility: research centers, local authorities, partners of credit, specialized consultants, public interest groups working in the field, media projects, etc.

Also in this case an action at the European level is required because it will help us to attain the critical mass needed to ensure such actions. Among other things, a joint European Union position could overcome any possible objection on “State aid” \.

For these reasons NoAuto now calls for a political initiative as broad-based as possible, involving the many experiences of mobilization against unsustainable transportation plans and projects, and, more importantly, finally starting a confrontation with the car sector workers that abroad is already being performed.

A good starting point could be to resume and revive the ideas and proposals that have been launched in recent months – for example by workers of the FIAT plant in Pomigliano d’Arco.

This is no time for closed government. The important thing is to begin to open up the debate to all the players, let the best ideas compete, and mobilize for another mobility. If not now, when?


# # #

NoAuto is an Italian public interest association promoting a system of mobility alternatives to the car: MORE public transport, safety for walking and cycling, decreased congestion and pollution, reconquest of urban space, healthier lives, are among the objectives. The weekly magazine ‘Carta’ (www.carta.org) hosts a regular feature of the association.

For more:
Read: www.noauto.org
Contact: info@noauto.org

———————–

And now, a glance at Europe’s ‘cash-for-clunkers’ programs

By The Associated Press (AP) – 8 Aug. 2009

The popular “cash-for-clunkers” program that has encouraged consumers in Europe and the U.S. to trade in their old cars for newer and more efficient models was born in December 2008 when French President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a Euro 26 billion ($37.36 billion) stimulus plan to help the country ward off a recession.

To date, 11 countries in Europe offer similar plans.

* Germany offers Euro 2,500 to buyers of new or almost new cars who own cars that are nine years or older.

* France offers Euro 1,000 to scrap an older car that’s at least 10 years old.

* Italy offers Euro 1,500 for a car and Euro 2,500 for a light commercial vehicle for buyers who agree to scrap a car that is at least 10 years old.

* Spain offers Euro 2,000 on a purchase price of up to Euro 30,000; old car must be at least 10 years old.

* Portugal offers Euro 1,250 for scrapping a car that is 8 to 12 years old, or Euro 1,500 for a car that is older than 12 years.

* The Netherlands pays between Euro 750 to Euro 1,750 to scrap a car that is 9, 13 or 19-years-old.

* Austria offers Euro 1,500; car must be at least 12 years old.

* Romania offers Euro 900 to scrap a car that is at least 10 years old but limited the program to just 60,000 units.

* Slovakia offers Euro 1,100 toward a purchase price of up to Euro 18,800.

* Serbia offers Euro 1,000 on any new locally built Fiat Punto if a buyer trades in a 9-year-old car.

Source: Various governments, IHS Global Insight. – http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jOxyXvhSiYz–vOseImAnJ5Nl4xwD99U99I81

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

# # #

The very high cost of these programs:

It’s not the shameless draining of the taxpayer coffers that is the true cost of this folly. It is the fact that each time a high profile public “effort” is announced and grabs the headlines, it has the impact of giving a false sense of security that “something is being done” to counter the fundamental problems that underlie all this. This in turn generates either a sense of complacency, or in cases like this where the foolishness is so very apparent, discourages many from coming to grips with the real issues and choices. So CfC is a real step backward.

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