An Opportunity to Improve ‘Cash for Clunkers’
With the news that the popularity of cash for clunkers has already consumed the program’s $1 billion allotment comes the inevitable rehashing of the debate over what cars should be eligible for trade-ins if the program is extended.
Earlier in the year, Detroit’s powerful defenders on Capitol Hill pushed through legislation that effectively allowed consumers to trade clunkers for new clunkers — a boon to the automakers and dealers who were having trouble selling larger vehicles, but hardly a recipe to reduce emissions in any meaningful way.
At least one member of the Michigan delegation, Sen. Carl Levin (D), is already urging additional funding for the program.
“We have been told by the White House that people can keep buying cars under the program until further notice,” Levin said in a statement Friday. “We don’t know how long it will last, so people should go to their car dealers now if they want to take advantage of the program. We’re also going to seek additional funding to hopefully make the program last longer.”
But others are vowing that, if the program is to be extended, the eligible vehicles should get better gas mileage. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who had pushed legislation hinging the cash subsidies on better fuel efficiencies, issued a statement yesterday vowing to fight additional funding unless some changes are made.
We believe that any extension of the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program must go further in advancing the goals of better fuel efficiency and greater emissions reductions. We will not support any bill that does not meet these goals.
They have this in their favor: Levin and the other automaker defenders can no longer claim that eligibility thresholds have to be kept low to encourage participation.