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Tradeins Cause Eco-damage

Scrapping your old car for a new one could do more harm to the planet than you think, according to scientists at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands. John Howard reports.

Bert Van Wee of the National Institute of Public Health attached to Utrecht University in the Netherlands, has found that getting rid of your old dunger and buying a new car produces more Co2 than staying with the old one.

Van Wee said, "No one has factored into the equation the energy used in scrapping old cars and the emissions released in new car manufacture."

To find the true cost to the environment, he and his colleagues adjusted the statistics of car emissions gathered by the Dutch Government. They introduced figures for emissions resulting from scrapping, or even recycling, the old cars and from producing new cars.

They found that reducing the average age of cars in the Netherlands by three years would increase Co2 emissions by 4 percent overall.

"The problem will persist until new cars are much more efficient," Van Wee said.

"People also haven't taken account of the fact that new cars are heavier and more powerful than older ones. The current Volkswagen Golf weighs about 1100 kilograms, whereas the first Golf weighed about 800 kilograms." he said.

The scientists believe their study is also overly optimistic because people tend to drive their new comfortable cars more than their older ones.

Van Wee concedes that choosing a modern car may reduce other harmful emissions such as nitrogen oxides and volatile compounds but says these are easily mopped up by fitting existing cars with catalytic converters.

The Washington-based environmental watchdog, Worldwatch Institute, agrees.

Its energy transport researcher, Seth Dunn, says he isn't surprised at the findings. " We need to think about the energy efficiency of the entire life cycle of cars," he said.

He wants car manufacturers to improve car efficiencies but also sees a problem with the way statistics are gathered.

"In the US, for example, more than half of new cars produced are classed as sports utility vehicles. These are gas guzzlers that are excluded from statistics on other cars due to their different classification," he said.

Many countries have introduced tax incentives that encourage the scrapping of old cars so they can be replaced by supposedly more efficient modern cars. But the Dutch research shows that sometimes, we do the planet more harm than good when we buy that efficient, modern car.

Another problem with cars, in America at least, is that additives in petrol are now being found in unacceptable quantities in storm water run-off and waterways.

While in Australia, the NSW Government is proposing to double the annual $400 Sydney-central tax on users of permanent carparks to $800, while also introducing a $400 carpark tax for outlying cities.

Since 1992, permanent users of carparks have paid the tax to help fund public transport systems but new and expanded systems are now needed.

The Government is also planning to introduce monthly carless days in Sydney to help reduce pollution.

ends

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