Cash for Clunkers, the Israeli Version

Israel begins first phase of a plan to remove gas-guzzlers from country's roads by paying owners for them.

The Environmental Protection Ministry this weekend began the first phase of its plan to get old gas-guzzlers off the country's roads by paying the owners for their wrecks. The first car-composting lot opened in Ashdod on Friday; new sites are planned to open across the country over the next few months.

Anyone who turns in a vehicle over 20 years old - after verifying ownership at the Licensing Department, of course - will be given NIS 3,000 in exchange.

Over five years NIS 100 million is to be allocated to the program jointly sponsored by the ministries of transportation and of environmental protection - a program based on Cash for Clunkers, initiated in the United States by President Barack Obama. The American program, whose name has been changed to the rather less catchy Car Allowance Rebate System, proved enormously popular. Owners received $4,500 each for their heaps of steel. More than 700,000 new vehicles were sold as part of the program, which a number of other countries have also adopted.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan expects the program to rid the streets of thousands of fuel-inefficient, polluting and unsafe older vehicles each year.

"The orderly removal of these vehicles from the road will reduce the air pollution in cities, reduce the number of old cars abandoned in cities and at the side of the road, and increase the recycling of raw materials used to build vehicles," Erdan said.