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Sold as an economic stimulus and an environmental salve, the "cash for clunkers" program has succeeded in jump-starting the ailing auto industry. But some environmental and national security watchdogs are now arguing that the harm caused by destroying the used vehicles -- required by the government trade-in program -- may outweigh the benefits of exchanging pollution-spewing gas guzzlers for new, more efficient cars.
"Disposing of old products, a step required by most incentive and rebate programs, also has environmental costs," Gwen Ottinger, a researcher at the Chemical Heritage Found
fiat cash for clunkers is a scam
"Why throw away good parts when the supply chain is in jeopardy? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense," Wilson told The Associated Press. But Jim Burton, a service manager at Randy Curnow Buick-Pontiac-GMC in Kansas City, Mo., said other parts of the vehicle besides the engine can be recycled and that will help people who can't or wont' trade in their cars.
"Doors, hoods, transmission, interior components can be reused. But a lot of people still have these cars, they can't trade them or won't, but they're in pretty sad shape. This is going to give an opportunity for salvage yards and people to sell some of the components and maybe bring the car back to better condition,"
Calculations by The Associated Press, using Department of Transportation figures, show that replacing those fuel hogs will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by just under 700,000 tons a year. While that may sound impressive, it's nothing compared to what the U.S. spewed last year: nearly 6.4 billion tons (and that was down from previous years).