Colorado Dealers Target State's Worst-Polluting Cars For Buybacks

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Last year, we reported on a scheme aimed at helping Colorado car owners get their dirtiest vehicles off the road.

The Clear the Air Foundation and ReForest Colorado aimed to plant a tree for every polluting old vehicle donated--cleaning up the air in more ways than one.

The scheme is now doing rather well, Wards Auto reports. Clear the Air Foundation, started by the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, has removed 645 of the highest-emitting vehicles from the road.

The vast majority of these were trade-ins at Colorado's new-car dealers--neatly incentivizing the scheme for customers, who may otherwise shy away from a deal that sees them get nothing in return.

Of course, the scheme also accepts donations, and contributors are eligible for tax deductibles due to its charitable nature.

Often, schemes that pull in clunkers see the vehicles repaired and sent back out on the roads, but the latest programs have a more permanent aim--the cars are completely destroyed, with suitable metals recycled and smaller components--if in suitable working order--sold on to keep existing vehicles going. Some of this is done by members of the Colorado Auto Recyclers, whose members pay for the donated cars. In turn, this is helping the scheme become self-sustaining.

The program is more important than you might think.

Wards Auto cites an article in the New Yorker in 2006, by Malcolm Gladwell. The article stated that due to the incredibly poor state of repair of some of the state's worst vehicles, just five percent of the vehicles in Denver were contributing to 55 percent of the automobile pollution.

Some vehicles were producing carbon monoxide levels of 10 percent in the car's exhaust--200 times that of a clean, modern vehicle.

While modern vehicles have become even cleaner since 2006, some of those old, polluting vehicles are still on the road--for the time being, at least.

Ken Lloyd, the commission’s executive director, told Wards “We applaud the commitment of the Colorado Auto Dealers Assn. and the Clear the Air Foundation to improve air quality in our communities."

Whether planting trees or simply removing old clunkers from the roads, each car scrapped is an important step to making Colorado's roads cleaner.


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Comments (3)
  1. This kind of thing needs to be done even more. I feel the most egregious polluters that I regularly see are trucks that were exempt from pollution controls. These are smaller trucks that are just over the GVWR of Light Duty trucks that were subject to normal automotive emissions regs. These gross polluters are favored by lower income independent operators doing things like landscaping, trash hauling, etc., mostly because it costs very little to keep them running and in California the chassis doesn't rust out. We need a Cash-for-Clunkers for this class of vehicle. It would really make a meaningful difference in air quality.

  2. I don't approve of these operations at all. Sure, some vehicles are really way beyond repair or classic status but in no means should a vehicle be destroyed. Used auto dealer's are still recovering their stock numbers since Obama's Cash For Clunkers program and as much as I too enjoy fresh air not everyone can afford or can get approved for credit for a newer vehicle thus they're forced paying staggering prices at used car dealers for problematic cars in which they'll need to pay even more money for repairs or weekly payments at a "buy here pay here" business.

  3. Michael, I see restored vehicle at car shows and commend the efforts in money and in talent invested on these cars. The majority have special plates which means there can driven only to car shows. They are works of art on wheels and for some, a financial investment. However, not all vehicles fall into that category. Your concerns are real but no one is force to use this program. It is voluntary and since in a good year over 15 million vehicles are sold in the USA not all are worth saving. More are damaged by crashes and by improper service or maintenance. Many, in fact, are better off since newer cars use less fuel and are more reliable. Cheers.

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