The Hummer may be a symbol of everything environmentalists hate, but there's one part of it that could win a "much improved" award -- the tailpipe. Although the Hummer guzzles gas like a supertanker, it also benefits from modern emissions control technology.
Bill Clinton's 1967 Mustang: Scrapped for $500?
The average new car emits only a 10th as many hydrocarbons as the average car on the road, and a 20th of 1960s cars. A 1962 VW Bug undoubtedly causes more smog than a 2008 Ford Expedition.
The idea of "cash for clunkers" programs is that they get the gross polluters off the road. According to a California study cited by the New York Times, cars that are 13 years old or older cover only 25 percent of the miles driven, but cause 75 percent of the air pollution. The dirtiest 10 percent emit 59 percent of hydrocarbons and 47 percent of all carbon monoxide, says the California Air Resources Board.
Thirty percent of the 250 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads are at least 15 years old, so there are 75 million potential "clunkers" out there, the Times said.
These takeback programs have been tried out in several states and Canadian provinces, but they run into an implacable opponent: The classic car owner. Although the programs are voluntary, they deprive classic owners of access to old clunker "parts cars." One man's junk is another's treasure, apparently.
In 2000, for instance, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District sent a letter to Leonard R. Trimlett of Oakland, offering to junk his 1965 Mustang for a payment of $500. Trimlett was not impressed, and demanded $20,000, "plus $5,000 for the inconvenience you cause me in obtaining alternate transportation." He urged the district to also offer $500 for Bill Clinton's 1967 Mustang.
The retirement programs are even more onerous for classic owners when they're not voluntary. Let's go back 10 years. California's Smog Check would have required hundreds of thousands of old car owners to make expensive repairs to reduce emissions. Cue car collector par excellence Jay Leno, who claimed that "the number of cars over the age of 25 on our roads is really quite small...and most cars that age are driven less than a thousand miles per year." Some 3,000 people marched on Sacramento. And so, in 1997, 500,000 cars from 1966 to 1973 were exempted, and loopholes were created for other old cars to escape testing. The net result is a lot more pollution in California skies.
The latest "cash for clunkers" plans are federal, and would pay out a whole lot more than that California effort. For $8 billion, we could take out two million old cars at $3,500 each. Sound like a bargain to me.
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