Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) just introduced an amendment to the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill to include a “cash-for-clunkers” program — and after having initially billed the proposal as an environmental measure, it looks like Sutton and her fellow Democrats are finally dropping the green label and calling it what it is: a stimulus for the sagging auto industry.
The amendment, which would provide financial incentives for people to trade in their old vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones, arose from a compromise between two competing cash-for-clunkers bills, one of which was authored by Sutton and both of which contained much stronger environmental standards than the final product.
Sutton’s bill would have required the new vehicle to get at least 27 miles per gallon, while the bill favored by environmentalists would have mandated 25 percent higher fuel efficiency than the average vehicle in its class. The Sutton amendment — co-sponsored by John Dingell (D-Mich.), Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) — requires just a 4-mpg improvement over the old vehicle for passenger cars, as long as the “clunker” got no more than 18 mpg. And for large light-duty trucks, a driver is eligible for a $3,500 voucher if he or she upgrades to a vehicle that’s only 1 mpg more efficient.
The result is that people can receive $3,500 to buy a car that gets just 22 mpg — this on the same day that President Obama announced new regulations that will mandate that cars get 42 miles to the gallon by 2016.
And so in introducing her amendment, Sutton framed it in terms favoring the auto industry, rather than the environment.
“Over the last few months, auto sales have greatly suffered,” Sutton said. ” … This program has the potential to help change that.”
Another sign that the amendment lacks real environmental teeth: it’s getting broad support from the Republican side of the aisle.
Update 4:45 PM: The amendment just passed, with 50 votes in favor, 4 against and 1 present.
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