Cash for Clunkers Passes

| Wed Jun. 17, 2009 2:22 PM EDT

The much-debated war spending bill made it through the House last night. Altogether, the bill asked for $106 billion, including the orginal $75.5 billion that Bush requested for 2009. The bill included a little side project that might help solve one of Obama's biggest problems: how to save the car industry and the environment, simultaneously.

The "Cash for Clunkers" program sponsored by Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) intends to hand out $4,500 vouchers to people who bought cars that got 10 more miles-per-gallon than their old ones. Vouchers for $3,500 will go to consumers who made a 4 mpg improvement. Experts estimate that the program could create up to $1.5 million in car sales per year, but it's unclear how much it will do for the environment. "Light truck" owners will only be required to make a 5 mpg change to earn a voucher, even if their new car is a 16 mpg Hummer by GM. Cash for Clunkers is a good idea in theory, but we're not going to get anywhere if the government rewards people driving unapologetic gas-guzzlers for becoming only slightly more responsible.

Some Republicans opposed the program because it appears to be another handout to the failing auto industry, while Democrats such as Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) say it doesn't go far enough. Sound familiar?

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