The Obama administration is hailing the success of the $3 billion cash for clunkers program that saw nearly 700,000 people trade their older gas guzzlers in for sleek new energy efficient models.

If one were to judge the program solely on the basis of how many cars were sent to the scrap heap and the short term boost that the new care sales gave to the beleaguered auto industry then maybe it was a success.

But the program was a spectacular failure as a way to implement environmental policy.

According to Michael Wara an assistant professor at Stanford Law School and a faculty fellow at the university’s program on energy and sustainable development the program cost the government $200 to $400 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided.   Compare that to the recently passed climate change bill in Congress which pegged the cost to be $28 per ton by 2020.

Wara’s most conservative estimate has the cost of carbon dioxide avoidance at $201 per ton but that is based on the assumption the clunkers would have been driven another 100,000 miles each.  With many of the cars barely running that is an unlikely scenario.

If the cars could have lasted another 50,000 miles the cost would double to $402 per ton  or  $303 per ton at 75,000 miles or more than ten times the cost estimate in the climate change bill.

Just like the climate change bill which will impose huge costs on businesses and the public to reduce greenhouse gases the cash for clunkers program has proven itself to be yet another wasteful government program that was promoted as both an economic stimulus and a way to help save the environment.

In the end our children and grandchildren will pay the price of this clunker of a program for generations to come.