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Did “Cash for Clunkers” Program Help the Economy, Environment?

Actually economic and environmental effects are debatable.

by on Apr.30, 2010

Does this look like a healthy economy to you? (Click on the chart to enlarge.)

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is interpreting a new General Accounting Office study of the “Cash for Clunkers” program as saying it met key goals of stimulating the economy and improving vehicle fuel economy.

If only it were that simple.

The press release from the Committee selectively quotes the GAO in what appears to be an attempt to justify the Administration’s economic policies in an election year.

The new GAO report, Lessons Learned from Cash for Clunkers Program, “confirms the beneficial impacts of the CARS program,” according to the Committee headed by Henry A. Waxman, a Democrat from California.

“The CARS program is a classic example of how good environmental policy can also be good economic policy,” said Chairman Waxman. “And it shows how Congress and President Obama have worked to get the American economy moving.”

GAO reviewed two key program goals: stimulating the economy and putting more fuel-efficient cars on the road, and concluded, “The program achieved these broad objectives.”

However, the report also says, “the extent to which it did so is uncertain. For example, nearly 680,000 consumers purchased or leased vehicles using the program’s credit, yet some of these sales would have happened anyway.”    (more…)

Congressman Question Whether Toyota Really Tested For Electronic Control Problems

Reps. Waxman and Stupak cite “absence of documents.”

by on Mar.05, 2010

Toyota officials claimed their test ruled out electronics problems, but two senior lawmakers say they've seen no documents supporting such claims.

Has Toyota withheld critical documents from federal investigators looking into the recall of more than 8 million cars, trucks and crossovers?

That’s a question several senior lawmakers – running for reelection – are hoping to have answered.

Even before Toyota launched the first of a pair of recalls, last October, designed to deal with the “unintended acceleration” of its products, the automaker insisted that “extensive” tests had ruled out problems with the electronic control systems used on its vehicles.

But U.S. Reps. Bart Stupak and Henry Waxman contend that the embattled automaker has so far failed to provide documents supporting that claim, as they outlined in a letter sent to senior Toyota officials.

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During two days of hearings, late last month, the subject of electronic control problems came up repeatedly, though Toyota representatives, including Jim Lentz, the maker’s top U.S. executive, repeatedly expressed their confidence that digital systems were not at fault, based on what they described as “extensive” testing by both Toyota and an outside consultancy.

“If so,” says the letter sent by Reps. Stupak and Waxman, “the results of this testing should have been provided to the committee. Despite our repeated requests, the record before the committee is most notable for what is missing: the absence of documents showing that Toyota has systematically investigated the possibility of electronic defects that could cause sudden unintended acceleration.”

(more…)

“Cash for Clunkers” Sputters Along in Congress

Fleecing the taxpayers or a fleet upgrade that's good for all?

by on May.06, 2009

Clunkers is tied up in a much larger fight over an energy bill.

Clunkers is tied up in a much larger fight over a clean energy bill.

House Democrats from the Committee on Energy and Commerce have finally agreed a compromise bill that would provide billions of dollars in taxpayer-financed incentives to vehicle buyers who trade in older vehicles for new ones. Buyers would receive a coupon, worth $3500 or $4500, if the new vehicle is more fuel efficient than the one replaced.

The program could cost taxpayers as much as $4.5 billion during the year it would run, if all one million of the authorized coupons are cashed in. The money would come from the economic stimulus plan already approved by Congress.

The bill does not, apparently, require any financing from the very automakers that would benefit the most from it. A similar program in the United Kingdom requires an automaker match, as TDB has reported.  And unlike earlier versions of the bill, all vehicles built in the U.S. would be covered.

Still, many details need to be worked out; and as many questions remain about the soundness of the bill, as do obstacles to its passage: For example, does U.S. built mean that, or would it include vehicles built in Canada and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement? Are imports really ineligible? Would high-priced luxury vehicles be covered? What of used cars that are fuel efficient, could the vouchers used for their purchase?   (more…)