One way I suppose that we could engineer a world humming on eco-friendly machines is to bribe Americans to trade in all their clunky possessions for a rebate to buy something more eco-friendly. We've tried it with cars and it "worked" -- in that the program successfully handed out $1 billion faster than we anticipated. So why not try it with other expensive products?

Don't like your clunky computer monitor? Here's some money for a greener screen. Got a problem with your water heater, thin windows and black-tile roof? Here's a fat check for an eco-home makeover! Refrigerator making lots of white noise and emissions? Here's some state cash for a new one! Yes, Cash for Clunkers for refrigerators is alive and kicking in New England.


Here's the Times' Green Inc blog on the latest:

Last week, New Jersey began a statewide program that offers residents a $30 rebate by recycling eligible refrigerators or freezers. Old refrigerators and freezers in Vermont also fetch $30, under a program begun last month.

Pickup is free in both states...

It's easy to see where the states are coming from. Old fridges use more electricity, they emit ozone-depleting of chlorofluorocarbons and tons of carbon dioxide, and consumers can save a considerable amount on their energy bill by switching to models made after 1990. So why not sweeten the pot with an extra $30?

But it also raises the same problems as Cash for Clunkers, the car edition. It's not good economics to destroy working capital. Moreover it's debatable that state government's limited coffers are most wisely used to reimburse Americans for many fridge replacements that might happen anyway. And certainly the government can't bribe every American into green-proofing their life with cash rebates.

Can we?

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