Getting Clunkers off the Road

The state has revamped a program to get old clunkers off the road. The main reason is to reduce pollution from automobiles. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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Newer vehicles pollute less than older ones and Houston Galveston Area Council Executive Director Jack Steele says the older models need to come off the road.

"A lot of those cars are the cars we all see sitting at a traffic light and they pull away and we get that big puff of smoke."

Cars are a leading source of pollution that contribute to unhealthy ozone levels.ξ The Drive a Clean Machine program gives certain owners of cars older than ten years an incentive to replace the vehicle.ξ Cherie Robertson, a receptionist and single mom, took advantage of the program to replace her 1993 model ... although she admits her motivation was not for the environment.

"They give you a voucher for up to $3,500.ξ Now you tell me if I tried that 1993 in would I have gotten 3,000.ξ No.ξ Maybe $500."

All that matters to state officials is that car is off the road and not headed to a used car lot or to an auction block.ξ Instead it's headed to a recycle shop.ξ Dudley Smith is with LKQ Corporation which already recycles an average of 30,000 cars a year.

"The rules for these cars are that the engines and emmissions control equipment must be destroyed and not used again.ξ And the rest of the vehicle can then be recycled to people who need a hood or fender or it's recycled for the metal content or whatever kind of aluminum or cooper there may be."

The recycle shops turn in certificates to the HGAC confirming the car is off the road.ξ This is a revamped program that is getting a lot more attention.ξ Again Jack Steele ...

"The private sector has an incentive.ξ We have dealers who want to sell cars and so they can make that program user friendly.ξ The previous program was a repair only program.ξ It was fine, but obviously if you've got an old car there is only so much you can do with a repair program.ξ By putting someone into a new car we can reduce emissions by more than 90 percent, so that's a dramatic difference."

The state has allotted $100 million to this program with a goal of getting 30,000 to 40,000 cars off the road.ξ The program is being paid for by a $6 fee on inspections.ξ The fee and the Drive Clean program apply only to areas of the state that do not meet air quality standards.ξ Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.ξ

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