Klar: Beat-up pick-ups save the planet more than EVs

The case for frugal use of old cars and trucks.

by John Klar, originally published on Small Farm Republic blog

The title of this piece is deliberately controversial, but I will now set out to prove the premise that pushing old pick-up trucks to their last drivable mile is generally a very environmentally wise, as well as economically frugal, practice. The reason is that once a vehicle has been manufactured, an enormous environmental and energy investment has been made. It makes no environmental sense to discard that vehicle and rush to construct a new, “more efficient” one, while ignoring the massive investment of resources and energy that must be measured as part of that so-called efficiency.

The Big Lie behind renewable energy manufacturing is that EVs or solar panels, for instance, will “use less energy” than alternatives. But this allegation is deliberately and craftily crafted to ignore the environmental costs of production, let alone disposal. These “externalized costs” are cast onto the planet without environmental accounting by those offering the bait-and-switch of “renewables” that are in every case manufactured anew—mostly in China, but always generating massive amounts or pollution and waste.

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An interesting analysis of the ability of renewables to meet energy demands (they can’t possibly) summarizes this sleight of hand:

Ecological footprint does not confine itself to a nation’s carbon emissions—the myopic habit of climate scientists and activists—but includes the totality of inputs that supports a given lifestyle, e.g. food, water, soil, metals, minerals. This includes the materials, waste and emissions embodied in consumer goods, including those made overseas, so that the ecological impacts of production are allocated to the nation where the end products are consumed. Ecological footprint also encompasses all per-capita waste, including food waste, throwaway plastics, household chemical pollution and other toxins, and all types of liquid effluent — counting, for example, the gallons of water needed to flush the average human’s prodigious excreta. 

I must protest against the slanderous reference to human excreta—which throughout history and perhaps in the future was a valuable source of agricultural fertilizer before synthetic fertilizers derived from fossil fuels displaced it, and those once-prized turds were flushed away instead of being composted. (A topic for a future article).

But this quote summarizes what I am claiming about older, allegedly inefficient pick-up trucks: they were manufactured using a variety of energy and natural resources, and their true footprint does not disappear when they are replaced with a new vehicle that likely “cost” even more in precious metals, energy, and human labor. (After all, those new trucks boast a host of gadgets, including back-up cameras and microchip air pressure monitors, that were unthought of a decade or two ago. Those gadgets all have an environmental cost that miles-per-gallon or electric-versus-gasoline measurements simply avoid.)

(Moving a round bale feeder in a Jeep clunker — no worry about scratches!!)

In a society that requires inspection regimens that often take older vehicles off the road prematurely due to rust spots or poor emissions, one must ask whether the motive is not at times “regulatory capture” that forces consumers to buy a new vehicle before the old one has been properly expended. This was highly apparent in the folly and farce of the Obama administration’s “Cash-to-Clunkers” fraud. This program offered taxpayer dollars to purchasers of brand new vehicles, rewarding people for taking older vehicles off the roads. This resulted in a short-term and temporary boost to new car sales, benefitting the auto industry that pushed the program. But it did the opposite of what it advertised for the environment.

Under the program, cars and trucks taken out of commission were prohibited from use for used parts, which were landfilled or melted down. How did that help the environment? 

But more, if it “cost” 800 barrels of oil to manufacture a 2000 Chevy Silverado, plus a massive amount of steel, plastics, and valuable metals including copper and chrome, the frugal and environmental course would be to drive it for every last safe mile that could be mustered. This is what low-income rural farmers have always done, and what is sneered at by high-earning talking-head urbanites who posture in their $100,000 BMWs. 

The once-praised adage “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure” has always been my personal mantra. Not only do I not want a hefty monthly payment for a new vehicle in a farming enterprise with low profit margins: I don’t want a truck so fancy and polished that I “ruin” it when I fill it with firewood, manure, or hay. I want that scratched-up eye-sore with a solid frame and new brakes, so I can work it hard without decreasing its market value. Indeed, that IS its market value to me and others who share this creed.

I bought a used Ford pick-up from my cousin, knowing the frame had broken, and he had re-welded it. The truck had very low miles but had sat for many years, thus the weakness of the frame. I used it to move building materials, manure, hay, and firewood. Low and behold, the frame snapped again, in another spot. So we welded it anew, and off I went, transporting goods not in a fancy rig a la useless back-up camera (my neck still cranes fine: I don’t need no stinkin’ environment-damaging camera!), but in a well-weathered workhorse. Plus, the heater and radio still worked fine – much more important for the workhorse than whether it can be charged electrically while the owner buys a $10 cup of coffee. 

(After the third frame-snap, this truck still drove around like a back-country low-rider, but I soon sent it for scrap.)

Pick-up trucks with four-wheel drive now run some $75,000 new. But they cost much more in environmental damage. I bought a used 2010 Dodge pick-up (from that same cousin) three years ago for $2,500, and his garbage is my treasure. I have moved perhaps 20 cords of firewood in that truck, at least two hundred round bales (weighing 500-700 pounds each), and several thousand square bales. It has relocated many tons of organic cow and sheep manure. I only use it for farm work, but it is a fantastic laborer for me and my cows.

What I am doing with my cousin’s castaway trucks is environmentally friendly. Instead of placing a brand new vehicle in service, I am milking every environmental drop of energy and materials savings out of the service of the old one. It is both economically and environmentally more frugal to do so, despite the scowls of the elites parading around in their EV faux pas. THEY are destroying the ecosystem at an accelerated rate, while deluding themselves they are saviors (on their way perhaps to a skiing weekend). I am exercising stewardship of both the environment, and of that old pick-up.

I am concerned for the future of frugality. How will I buy used pick-ups to grow healthy local food, when all the city-slickers are driving nothing but useless EVs that couldn’t cart a single round bale, let alone a half cord of green maple? What will the world become, when all the climate elitists want nothing but high-brow fraud vehicles, and their used vehicles are no longer treasured by frugal farmers who take pride in recycling, and extending the use of what the elites discard? Who will do the work of raising food and cutting firewood, when the flatlanders are all dependent on heat pumps and electric grids for their basic needs, more vulnerable and dependent than any humans in all of history?

And the greatest irony of all is that this conversion to stupidity is being accomplished under the snake-oil guise of “saving the planet,” when it isn’t saving a single molecule, but instead doing the exact opposite. This folly is unfolding before our eyes, and must be countered by those with minds that function, and who recall the Great Depression, and the consequences of foolishness. Common sense must and will make a comeback, in due course. Perhaps then we will dispose of EV cars by repurposing them into chicken coops…. with snazzy back-up cameras that rot into the earth.

The author is a Brookfield farmer, lawyer, author, and was a 2022 candidate for the Vermont Senate. Printed with permission from the Small Farm Republic blog.

Categories: Commentary, Uncategorized

17 replies »

    • Perspective, Mr. Page – perspective:

      I get it.. Teslas, walking, breathing, flatulence, old pick-up trucks, you name it … the actual space we humans take-up on Earth preempts something else, ‘more natural’ perhaps, from using that space.

      There is a given amount of Carbon, in various forms (including CO2), on planet Earth. Humans aren’t creating it. They, like nature itself, are simply redistributing Carbon that already exists. Life on Earth is, after all, ‘Carbon based’. Carbon circulates. It’s ‘converted’. It’s subject to the first law of thermodynamics. It’s Kinetic or it’s Potential. Its form is the result of natural Supply and Demand. It’s Economics. And controlling the flow of Carbon, like money, provides the opportunity for various merchants to skim a profit from Carbon-based transactions.

      We’re all buying and selling ‘life on Earth’ as a commodity. The question is, where does individual ‘free enterprise’, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, come into play? The answer appears to be that the ‘American Experiment’ is under attack – if it ever really existed in the first place. And so too is self-determination, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…. unless, of course, you control the flow of Carbon.

      Ergo, the smaller your ‘carbon footprint’, the less control you have over your own life. And the climate fear merchants, enabled by cronies in government, are now trying to convince us that we should decrease our Carbon footprint because they can’t talk us into buying what they have to sell in any other way.

      “The king desires peace. He declares it to me, I swear it. He proposes that you withdraw your attack. In return he grants you title, estates, and this chest of gold which I am to pay to you personally.”

      “A lordship and titles? Gold? That I should become Judas?”

      “Peace is made in such ways.”

      “Slaves are made in such ways.”

      Caveat emptor.

      • Too bad you seem, based on your above comment, that you in anyway believe in this whole CO2 scam. You have said before you are not young. Then try and remember that in the 70s it was global cooling then in the 80’s Acid rain. Then when that did not scare enough people it was a non-existent term “Climate change” . What a crock. You are using the properly brainwashed terms like carbon footprint and you “explain” to people stuff most of this papers readers already know.

        My point is that you only have to speak that way for them to win. As a man of God I know this planet we call Earth is OURS. Not the animals, not the bugs, God made this world for us, to do as we see fit. I do not have any memory or any reference to GOD saying be diligent over what we do to the planet. GOD controls things not us. Every time we try, stuff goes all wrong. Think back to the dust bowl. Now think of HAARP and lets not forget chem trails. We have bigger fish to fry than the Government propaganda about CO2. Like what the corporations are putting into our food , water and the ground. .
        This is akin to asking permission to do things on this planet. You don’t need permission to live and you don’t need to believe these posers who do not care or have your best interest at heart.

      • Mr. McLamb: The degree to which you misunderstand and misrepresent what I expressed can not be exaggerated. I suggest you reread my missive.

  1. Would help if we were all as frugal as my grandparents. They survived the great depression and continued to live according to the old adage, use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. Works for me.

    • No, I understand and disagree, maybe you should do a better job explaining yourself.

  2. The Federal Government tried and in some cases succeeded in the obama years with them destroying old pickup trucks. They even made them un-useable by seezing motors and other things to make them all but a chunk of steal and plastic.

    I do not see any 8ft bed trucks anymore I see short beds with trailers. THAT makes lots of sense.
    Lots of people use old cars, they run better and parts are not as expensive as a college education. Still has a radio still runs better than most modern cars and in some cases they get better gas mileage.
    With too many people wanting to get attention over a new vehicle they buy or if you are dumb, lease. Besides when you buy used you can usually get it with cash and not have to run to the bank.
    Insurance is cheaper.
    Maintenance schedule is shorter but never as expensive.
    Parts are in most cases very available.
    This all applies to old rider lawnmowers. mine is from 1978, very little to no plastic.
    People are always selling motors for them too.
    Modern chainsaws are nice but the old ones were less troublesome.
    The addition of the ethanol in gas has made it harder for old vehicles but there are ways to overcome the “problems” that happen from its use. Any one with a small motor or old car can attest to that. We even have a thriving market for non ethanol gas as well as a thriving used parts market.
    I never understood buying a new car/truck every few years, even if you do drive a whole bunch . .

  3. Do you mean to tell me that two decades ago when “environmentalists” set hundreds of Hummer H2 vehicles on a dealer lot ablaze actually spewing toxins into the atmosphere probably wasn’t good for the environment either? Do you mean, those SUVs which got no less than, and sometimes better gas mileage than comparable SUVs and/or pick-ups on the road during that time were destroyed for no good reason?? And may I also infer that placing thousands of American auto workers/sales associates on unemployment lines as these self-professed “environmentalists” denounced & condemned an entire auto manufacturer for no real reason other than how their vehicles outwardly looked was apparently both ignorant and injurious???

    Well, I’ll be.

    American General rocked. Phony environmentalists not so much.

  4. Yeah, well what are we gonna do with 10’s of millions of gas powered cars? We can’t get people to work for $20/hr complaining THAT isn’t enough to live on… so where are the junk steal workers coming from? Outer space? And what will they do with all that metal since cars aren’t being made out of metal? Politicians have no long term plans for wars or for technology. Only empty promises and the forced adoption of stupid ideas that in 20 or so years they’ll be screaming about being toxic and all that crap… likely to make room for yet another stupid idea.

    It’s all about your money getting into their pockets in whatever way they can make it happen, and it’s got nothing to do with actual greening of anything but their net worth, including all the big industries making a fortune.

    I own a 20 year old Ranger. I live in an old beat up house that’s paid for. And it’s STILL hard to keep up with expenses, tho I OWE NO MONEY ON CREDIT. Just the insurances, taxes, fuel, food, and home utilities are killing me. WTF is going on???

    • Pretty much the same here, I am thinking Arkansas, Missouri, lower central states, with low taxes and republican based.

  5. Our inspection laws are ridiculous. Somehow, we are in the same class as California. Rust spots on a pick up bed? Big safety hazard!!!

    Only 15 states require annual inspection. States that don’t include Michigan, Ohio, the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho. Evidently, they must not use salt on their roads since they must not have rust.

    • And according to the Federal Government’s own studies, safety inspections have ZERO impact on actual safety. It’s just a way to grease the palms of garages & dealers, and also, to keep the neurotic libby lefty hypocrites in congress from having to look at at those dirty old cars that make them feel insecure about their class issues. These people can afford to buy new cars every 3-4 years, and they don’t get how stupid it is to have to choose between fixing a stupid tattletale light or insignificant rust spot, or just give up drive uninspected and risk the ticket and resultant cascading legal & financial issues. It’s really class warfare.

  6. As the years pass I am more and more amazed-no, STUNNED, that the puny humans making these ridiculous edicts have such arrogance and hubris. Do you really think that people are so much more superior to Mother Earth’s strength and abilities? Assigned by GOD I may add.
    Even better, the absolute destruction of truth is mind boggling.
    People need oxygen. People exhale carbon dioxide.
    Plants need carbon dioxide. Plants “exhale” oxygen.
    Am I the only one who knows that NYC has some of the best air? The people survive on the oxygen from the plants! The plants thrive on the carbon dioxide from the people.
    This is all about controling and killing we-the-people. So sayeth the great and powerful politicians.
    Are you understanding this yet?
    We are called by them “useless eaters”; mouth breathers. We are breathing their air and eating their food.

  7. Dealers and manufacturers often put “soft tires” on new vehicles- this does two things. It softens the ride when potential buyers test drive vehicles, but also it sells more tires.
    An acquaintance recently leased a brand new vehicle from Shearer Volkswagen for a 3 year period, and 2 yrs into the lease (12k miles no less) has now already FAILED INSPECTION and has to REPLACE the tires. Of course any set purchased as a consumer will get the normal 50-60k miles. Basically the dealership is KNOWINGLY extorting their lessees into outfitting their vehicles with brand new tires before they get turned in. Obviously this is pure garbage for the environment. Feel free to start legislating these common sense issues if you want my buy-in. I’ll be waiting.
    Here’s another- Get rid of all these “water efficient” toilets that claim environmental benefits. If you have to flush them more than once to get the same job done, there’s no “savings”.

  8. Qui bono?

    In Alaska, there is no such thing as vehicle inspection. New cars are beat up very quickly up there, and its land bound, and no market for junkers of any sort. The back yard of any long term Alaskan is filled with parts and pieces that may be useful down the rud’a’piece…if you have watched the Kilchers on LAST FRONTIER, its a way of life to use and reuse – which USED to be the slogan of the environmental movement before the corporatists got ahold of it.

    Of course, the real issue is the love affair with materialism and technocracy as a solution to dealing with what God has set before us to do… the evil one’s unimaginative engineering of our minds and souls so we cannot see the perfection we were given to live WITH, not over or against.

    My cars have ALWAYS been tried and tested, ten years old or older. And we are going to see a growing market for these outlaw junkers in the future… and the legislation to keep them out of our hands…by the evil one’s minions.

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