Leading the way in the U.S., perhaps surprisingly to some, is Texas, the iconic
face of the U.S. oil industry. The traditionally
conservative state is launching a large $45 million annual program aimed at
providing subsidies to help get polluting autos off the road. The effort
is named "Drive a Clean Machine" and is only available to Austin,
Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area citizens with low incomes and a car over
10 years old.
A family of four must make $63,000 or less to qualify. Texas has the
second most vehicles of any state, with 8.7 million total on the road.
The vehicles eligible for the program must also fail an emissions test and be
drivable to a dealership under their own power.
The program will offer those that qualify up to $3,500 to help in their
purchase of a new or (newer) used vehicle. Andrea Morrow, a spokeswoman
for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says the program has been a
phenomenal success, replacing 11,000 elderly vehicles. "It's a great
way to get those older vehicles off the roads," said Marrow
a hybrid are eligible for $3,500, while those buying traditional autos can
receive a $3,000 in voucher form to buy a truck up to two years old or a car up
to three years old. All vehicles must be $25,000 or less and be on a
Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a
trade group representing Detroit's Big Three, Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG
and six others, said his group strongly encourages such efforts. While
encouraging newer auto purchases will help the auto companies, he says the big
thing is that it helps the environment and consumers. "We strongly
support efforts to get older, less-efficient vehicles off the roads and help
consumers," said Territo.
Indeed there is evidence that much of the nation's auto population is becoming
increasingly decrepit. The economy has been getting hammered, with June
being the worst month on the stock market since the Great Depression, and
consumers are feeling the pinch and hanging onto older vehicles, afraid to
R.L. Polk in a recent 2007 study found that the average age of autos on U.S. roads
is 9.2 years, only tying a 2006 study. Light truck ages are up to 7.1
years on average, the highest level since 1998. However, efforts may be
working -- Americans junked 13 million vehicles in 2007, or 5.2 percent of all
vehicles, a rise from 5 percent in 2006.
California is offering a similar program to Texas. California has the
most vehicles in the nation, with 33 million cars and trucks, or 13.5 percent
of the nation's auto fleet. The state is offering $50 million a year to
give lower-income the chance to enjoy newer vehicles. The program will
give those eligible either $1,500 for a new vehicle, or $500 to repair their
current vehicle. While the program from the state's Bureau of Automotive
Repair is aimed to help lower income citizens it does not check or require
specific levels of income. The program scrapped 16,000 vehicles last
year, replacing them with new vehicles.
The state remains concerned as the California's Air Resources Board predicted
that by 2010, thirty percent of the state's vehicles will be 13 years old or
Finally, Canada is joining the U.S. in offering subsidies to scrap older
cars. Canada is launching a major program Jan. 1, which it hopes will get
50,000 vehicles off the road, or about 1 percent of the nation's fleet. A
total of $92 million has been allocated to the program. Vehicles must be
running to qualify. The three-year program will offer citizens $300 cash
or a discount on a bicycle or a public transit pass in exchange for their old
car. Canada's environment minister John Baird states that the program
will "get Canadian's smog-causing, gas-guzzlers off the road."
Local Canadian governments also have a variety of programs, some of which are
ongoing, others which are complete. These programs include the "Cash
for Klunkers" in Kelowna, British Columbia; "Bye Bye Beaters" in
Winnipeg, Manitoba and Nova Scotia; and "Steer Clean" in Halifax.
While eliminating old autos certainly provides environmental benefits in
cleaner and more limited emissions and provides consumers with more safety,
reliability, and cost savings in gas, the programs remain controversial. For
the time being though, it appears that if anything the subsidies will only see
increased adoption across the nation, thanks to strong reception.