Public Citizen filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request yesterday for information that it says is needed to assess whether the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) or “cash-for-clunkers” program is actually working.
The Washington-based pressure group made the request claiming the Obama administration “has not been forthcoming with key information” just as Republicans in the Senate appeared to be dropping opposition to a proposed $2 billion extension of the popular program.
At the center of the controversy is a lack of agreement about the goals clunkers purports to accomplish: a general business stimulus and taxpayer bailout of car dealers and automakers, or a clean air initiative that will reduce emissions and decrease fuel consumption. All of those arguments were put forth since the proposed legislation appeared last January.
“The public should have access to the details of the program so it can assess whether taxpayer money is being spent well and whether the program is truly helping curb auto emissions,” said Lena Pons, policy analyst for Public Citizen. “If the program is as successful as the administration claims, then releasing the information should only strengthen its case.”
After the Department of Transportation announced that its initial $1 billion in funding had been spent after just one week, the House of Representatives approved another $2 billion in funding. Critics claim that the $1 billion spent was derived from early reports from auto dealers and has not yet been verified by NHTSA. The Senate should get more information before voting to approve this additional $2 billion in funding, Pons said.