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Cash for Clunkers Controversy

By: Sara Ross Email
By: Sara Ross Email

July 29, 2009

Car dealerships around Charlottesville say they are seeing plenty of business because of the new Cash for Clunkers program. And while the program is bringing customers into showrooms, its critics say it won't deliver on its promise of helping the environment.

Vehicles traded in as part of the government's new CARS program line the back lot of Jim Price Chevy and Hyundai. And it's a sight dealerships across the region say is now familiar. Each of the gas guzzlers traded in has been replaced with a new more fuel efficient car thanks to a government discount of up to $4,500.

"We've traded some people that have changed 15 miles per gallon what they were driving to what they're driving now” said Jim Price CEO Sandy Fewell. “It's going to make them much more fuel efficient. It's going to change the carbon footprint that everybody's talking about as far as environmentally. It's a great program."

Once you hand over your old clunker to a dealership, the government requires them to give the vehicle to a scrap yard that will destroy its engine and transmission to keep it off the road for good. After that, the scrap yard is supposed to junk the car, sell what they can, and recycle the rest. But critics of the CARS program say that probably won't happen in a lot of cases, and usually these cars end up in landfills.

"My concern is that there isn't a market for them,” said Blue Ridge Eco Shop owner Paige Matteson. “And then, just like other recycling, unfortunately if there isn't a market for any type of recycling, whether it's paper or car pieces, they end up in the landfill because they're not going to house them."

It's too soon to measure the true environmental impact of this new program. The CARS program is scheduled to run through November 1, 2009 or until the government’s $1 billion slated for the program runs out.

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