Normally I've been against most types of vehicle scrappage programs or clunker laws. They're usually deceitful diversions for big oil company polluters or they're intended to take away cars that hobbyists or senior citizens want to keep. Now the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District may embark on an ambitious plan to buy out owners of the area's highest polluters, and it's a strategy I will take a second look at when all the details are released.

Clunker programs offer money to owners of gross polluters to get their vehicle off of the road for good. The cars are usually crushed, which gets the hobby industry up in arms. They would rather see the parts recycled and rare vehicles restored. Some crusher programs wait until the vehicle is totally unusable, like Earth Waste Systems in Vermont (shown). They buy up cars from the demolition derby and then crush them.

I know that a large percentage of the smog can be traced to a small minority of heavy polluters. But early scrappage programs were misused by large corporations, mostly rich oil companies, who received pollution credits for the vehicles they purchased. These companies then didn't have to clean up their own contributions to pollution.

This program proposed by central California will use state smog-test records to identify the worst polluters. The owners would have the choice of getting $1,000 for the vehicle, or $5,000 to buy a newer car.

Public hearings are scheduled for next month. I want to find out more about this plan, especially since it has the potential to be very expensive. As long as it doesn't involve pollution credits, the plan seems workable and fair. I like the pro-active strategy of assisting vehicle owners to purchase new vehicles. I'd like to see a provision that allows hobbyists to salvage parts if a rare or desirable vehicle is acquired. It might help pay for the program.

[Source: Associated Press via Contra Costa Times]

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