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Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: mrbigstuff
Date: December 30, 2008 03:21PM
...more so than buying a new or newer model?

I'm always trying to parse what it means to be eco-correct and this is a topic I ponder often. Can anyone point to a thoughtful analysis on the benefits in terms of pounds of carbon and dollars involved in keeping older cars, or appliances (or computers!) working vs. the higher energy efficiency of newer items vs. the cost of disposal and landfills?

It is not an easy analysis, so I would be happy to read something that shows even one small item for the sake of comparison. the thread about the 16/600 got me thinking, since that is quite the power hog (and I have one of those, too).
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: jdc
Date: December 30, 2008 03:32PM
define "old"?



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Edited 999 time(s). Last edit at 12:08PM by jdc.
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: Black Landlord
Date: December 30, 2008 03:59PM
It's all relative.
If sticking with the old car prevents a new car from being built, then maybe.
If you are likely to drive less by sticking to the old one, maybe.
If saving the money on the new purchase allows you to take a lower paying job closer to home (bike or even walking distance) then maybe.



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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: Carthaigh
Date: December 30, 2008 04:07PM
Oh so NOW you care about the environment Mr. Bigstuff?



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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: incognegro
Date: December 30, 2008 04:11PM
do the old cars just go into a landfill?



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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: voodoopenguin
Date: December 30, 2008 04:23PM
My 54 year old car does about 40mpg, that's about 32 US mpg. It has no clever electronics and virtually no plastic so when it finally heads for that old scrap heap in the sky most of it can be easily recycled although I guess that a lot will be passed on to keep similar old cars going a bit longer. I'd say that was better than buying new and scrapping after a few years. It isn't for long distance but I use it for the journeys that are a bit too far to walk or cycle.

Not sure what the eco value is in the friendly smiles I get when I drive it but I'm sure it does people good.



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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: DaviDC.
Date: December 30, 2008 04:54PM
I saw on the news that this has been a boom time for mechanics, cobblers, tailors, & such. A lot of that stuff that was made to be disposable is trying to be repaired.



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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: kap
Date: December 30, 2008 04:56PM
Is my Honda Accord hatchback 1987 old?



SoCal for now.
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: Racer X
Date: December 30, 2008 05:32PM
yeah, but you could scrap my '69 Buick GS350 and make 2 or 3 of your Hondas.
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: kap
Date: December 30, 2008 05:33PM
LOL Racer X



SoCal for now.
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: Racer X
Date: December 30, 2008 06:53PM
I hear they can render down a '76 Buick Electra 225 and make 27 Honda Fits and half a Gold Wing.
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: Black Landlord
Date: December 30, 2008 07:00PM
Quote
incognegro
do the old cars just go into a landfill?

Depends. Most get sold and driven a few more years. Ultimately they get parted out depending on the value of junkyard real estate, the popularity of the model and the universality of its parts . . . The most environmentally friendly possibility for mrbigstuff's car would actually be to put the car in the landfill and -not- reuse any of its parts to keep other cars running.



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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: davester
Date: December 30, 2008 08:01PM
That's a very complex question to answer and there are plenty of scientists out there trying to answer the question. The answer depends on a lot of different variables, like whether the new car is the equivalent of the older car, whether it is more efficient than the older car (this is definitely not necessarily true), what the assumed life cycle of each car is, how much of the car is recycled when it's taken off the road, and whether you are only looking at carbon production or also toxic air pollution.

Many people try to answer this question by trying to figure out how long driving an efficient car (e.g. Prius) would take before the fuel savings would be equivalent to the embodied energy it took to build the car (most estimates put this time period at between 1 and 4 years. However, IMHO this is a flawed concept, since they are only looking at a snapshot of part of the lifecycle of each car. Whole lifecycle analysis over multiple generations of car by segments of the population is the only valid way to answer the question of whether decreasing the proportion of new cars bought makes a difference.

My gut feeling is that maintaining used relatively efficient cars so that they last longer than their typical lifetime is the greenest practice. Inefficient cars should be recycled. Something that I find very odd is that many of the "greenies" in my neck of the woods tend to be anti-car folks, so they don't maintain their vehicles, which then pollute more, fall apart, and need to be replaced more often, which is about the ungreenest practice possible. These are the folks who tend to view environmentalism as a religion rather than a science.



"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: Black Landlord
Date: December 30, 2008 08:07PM
Quote
davester
Something that I find very odd is that many of the "greenies" in my neck of the woods tend to be anti-car folks, so they don't maintain their vehicles, which then pollute more, fall apart, and need to be replaced more often, which is about the ungreenest practice possible. These are the folks who tend to view environmentalism as a religion rather than a science.

Not that odd-- hypocracy comes in all colors, shapes and sizes.
My favorite is the old clunker covered in pro-environment stickers.
To an extent, though, these folks do make a difference by not supporting the auto industry by buying a new car every two years.
Bringing it back to my question above- does not buying a new car result in one less car on the road?



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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: mrbigstuff
Date: December 30, 2008 08:33PM
Quote
Black Landlord
Bringing it back to my question above- does not buying a new car result in one less car on the road?

ah, that is essentially my question. if I sell my car, it will end up in the hands of someone likely to drive it into the ground (it's not far away from the dirt now...) and that would be pretty undesirable. however, if i sink some cash into it i will prolong its life, perhaps to my bank account's detriment (and some mechanic's profit), but ultimately it will avoid a new car coming into the world.
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: sekker
Date: December 30, 2008 08:42PM
Keeping an old, fuel-efficient car running with good maintenance is a great way to get maximum value out of the energy we already spent making that vehicle.

Keeping a 10 year old Hummer on the road does not make a lot of sense.
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: kap
Date: December 30, 2008 08:44PM
I spent $1,500 on a new used engine and more on resurfacing the brake rotors, rebuilding a starter, repairing the speed sensor, fixing a leaky oil pan and power steering wheel. My car ain't even worth $800! Hopefully it will last me at least five years and help the environment somehow smiling smiley



SoCal for now.
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: Black Landlord
Date: December 30, 2008 09:14PM
Quote
kap
I spent $1,500 on a new used engine and more on resurfacing the brake rotors, rebuilding a starter, repairing the speed sensor, fixing a leaky oil pan and power steering wheel. My car ain't even worth $800! Hopefully it will last me at least five years and help the environment somehow smiling smiley

Let's see:
-resurfacing the brake rotors: should extend brake pad life--plus
-repairing the speed sensor-- if this has something to do with fuel mixture--plus
-fixing a leaky oil pan-- using less oil in order to leave it behind on the asphalt- plus
- power steering wheel-- you'll effectively drive less with a steering wheel than you would zig-zagging all over the road-- plus
-rebuilding a starter-- cars are better for the environment when they don't start-- minus.

Congratulations! 4 out of 5, a solid "B."



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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: kap
Date: December 30, 2008 09:59PM
Hell, I deserve at least an "A" for driving much less since I have started commuting on bike and by bus most days of the week hot smiley



SoCal for now.
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Re: Does keeping an old car running "benefit" the environment ?
Posted by: Black Landlord
Date: December 30, 2008 10:08PM
Quote
kap
Hell, I deserve at least an "A" for driving much less since I have started commuting on bike and by bus most days of the week hot smiley

Sorry, I didn't realize this was about you :-)



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