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California Fights Pollution With 'Cash for Clunkers' Program

Aired July 24, 2000 - 1:37 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Maybe it hasn't run out of gas, but it's run out of steam: that old clunker that couldn't pass an emissions test to save its life.

Our Don Knapp tells us about a program in California that makes polluting cars profitable for the owners.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With 21 million cars spewing exhaust into California's air, many of the state's major cities can't always meet federal clean air standards. The toughest smog laws in the country have failed to keep some of the dirtiest cars off the road. With a state waiver, so-called "gross polluters" can stay on the road for as much as two more years if smog system repairs exceed $500.

Now California is going after the dirty cars with a $1,000 cash incentive. An owner gets the cash, the state gets the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's your check for the car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, you're all set. Thank you very much.

KNAPP: After Fred and Melissa Viviani's (ph) '91 Geo failed a smog test, they turned it over to a state-approved wrecking yard.

(on camera): For those who may have developed an attachment to their old clunker, it's probably good that they don't see what happens next.

(voice-over): The way California figures it, the "Cash for Clunkers" program is a bargain.

CHRIS DAVIS, CALIFORNIA BUREAU OF AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR: No matter what, it costs money to reduce smog to clear the air whichever way you go -- the consumer paying for tests, all the various aspects of paying for repairs, the administration of this program.

KNAPP: Typically, it costs about $5,400 per ton to eliminate air pollutants from the environment. But California says getting rid of a gross-polluting car eliminates the same amount over the course of a year for a fraction of the cost.

It may be painful to watch, but cleaner air and cash in the pocket may make the old clunker's end a bit easier to take.

Don Knapp, CNN, Hayward, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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