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In order to receive federal reimbursement for the subsidy consumers get for trading in their cars, dealers must first destroy the engine. One common method is to drain the car's oil and flood the engine with sodium silicate, or liquid glass. Dealers then turn the car on and rev the engine to let the solution harden. In just a few minutes, the car becomes inoperable.
Critics Say 'Clunkers' Program Isn't Very Green
"The estimates vary, but somewhere between 3 and, say, 12 tons of CO2 are produced for every car you make," says William Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.
Chameides calculates that if you trade in an 18 mpg clunker for a 22 mpg new car (22 miles per gallon is the minimum mileage allowed for a new car under the program), it would take five and a half years of typical driving to offset the new car's carbon footprint. With trucks, it might take eight or nine years, he says.