Less than one week after it launched, the Car Allowance Rebate System—or
“Cash For Clunkers“—has almost run through its billion in funding. Congressional leaders scrambled Friday to extend the program before the
August recess—but Senate leaders like Dianne Feinstein of California may
be reluctant to add further money to a program many felt had lost its environmental benefits.
The House of Representatives passed a billion extension in a decisive
vote, but as the bill moves to the Senate, it’s unclear whether that
amount will be changed or where the money will come from. The House legislation
aims to take it from funds previously designated for renewable energy projects as part of President Obama’s stimulus bill.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs assured reporters that enough money was
left to last through the weekend. But later that same evening the National Automobile Dealers Association advised its members to suspend their participation in the program until further notice.
In a joint statement with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Dianne Feinstein demanded that any extension of the program include tougher fuel economy standards, as well as vouchers to help lower-income drivers purchase fuel-efficient used cars. The two Senators have also requested figures from the Department of Transportation that might shed some light on the environmental effectiveness of CARS. “The tremendous number of sales in the first week of this program demonstrates that the CARS Act has succeeded in increasing new vehicle sales, but Congress needs this data in order to determine if (it) delivered significant fuel economy gains and oil savings.”