Senators Feinstein, Collins, Schumer, And Carper Formally Introduce More Fuel Efficient “Cash For Clunkers” Legislation

Proposal would achieve 32 to 38 percent greater oil savings than House compromise

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Tom Carper (D-Del.) today formally introduced legislation to establish a “Cash for Clunkers” program that incentivizes the purchase of more fuel efficient vehicles and would achieve at least 32 percent more oil savings than a House version of the bill. Senators Feinstein, Collins, and Schumer previously outlined the basic concepts in this bill on May 15.

The legislation introduced today (S.1200) by Senators Feinstein, Collins, Schumer, and Carper makes three key improvements on the House proposal — which is favored by the auto industry and would allow consumers to purchase new gas guzzlers.

 – First, the legislation would require that the purchased vehicle achieve 2 miles per gallon better fuel economy per class of vehicle than the industry-favored proposal. This would ensure that the program is consistent with the fleetwide fuel economy increases mandated by the 2007 fuel economy law.

The industry-backed proposal, on the other hand, would allow for the purchase of new gas guzzlers and would negatively impact fleetwide average fuel economy.

 – Second, the legislation would require that the trade-in vehicle have a fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon (mpg) or less. This would target the least efficient 47 million vehicles on the road.

The industry-backed proposal requires the traded-in vehicle have 18 mpg fuel economy, and would therefore achieve lower oil savings. 

 – Third, it would allow certain used cars to qualify, in order to encourage greater participation by lower-income consumers. The program would also include leased vehicles.

The industry proposal, on the other hand, excludes used vehicles or vehicles leased under typical terms (3 to 5 years).

If enacted, the Feinstein-Collins-Schumer-Carper proposal would:

 – Save 11,451 barrels per day. This is a 32 percent increase over the House Compromise (8,706 barrels per day)

 – Save 176 gallons of gasoline per vehicle per year, which 32 percent more than House compromise (133 gallons per vehicle per year). 

 – Save 1.91 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, a 32 percent increase over House compromise (1.45 million metric tons).

“Our nation’s auto industry is in trouble, and all of us want to help. In my view, the whole point of a cash-for-clunkers program is to replace a clunker with a more fuel-efficient vehicle. But the auto industry proposal would allow consumers to replace their old clunker with a new gas guzzler — like the Hummer H3T. I think that’s unacceptable and it would weaken the mileage improvements of the 2007 fuel economy law,” Senator Feinstein said. “So, our proposal would ensure that the vouchers are used to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles. It would achieve at least 32 percent more oil savings than the industry-backed proposal, save drivers 176 gallons of gasoline per year, and cut greater greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent more. I believe this is the better approach.”

Senator Collins said: “Our legislation is not aimed at bailing out the auto industry, although it would spur vehicle sales. It is environmental legislation that has the added benefit of helping the auto industry. I believe any federal support for purchasing new cars must also promote greater fuel efficiency as a way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Our bill offers both economic and environmental benefits to the nation by stimulating the purchase of cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles.”

“Our goal all along has been to advance legislation that can improve the environment and stimulate the auto industry at the same time,” said Senator Schumer. “This smart proposal accomplishes both goals.”

“Our Cash for Clunkers legislation is a win-win proposal. It aims to both stimulate the economy and protect our environment by incentivizing Americans to buy more fuel-efficient cars, trucks and vans,” said Senator Carper. “As a strong supporter of CAFE standards, I believe that any government program to encourage automobile purchases must also provide substantial progress on fuel economy.”

Senators Feinstein and Collins, along with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and others, were leading sponsors of the enacted Ten in Ten Fuel Economy Act (P.L. 110-140), which will increase the average fleetwide fuel economy of all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs by at least ten miles per gallon over ten years, beginning with model year 2011. One of the key elements of the fuel economy law was the implementation of attribute-based Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which means that the fuel economy of the class of trucks is compared to only to other trucks, and likewise with SUVs to SUVs, and small cars to small cars. 

The “Cash for Clunkers” proposal introduced today would ensure that vehicles purchased under the program do not bring down the fleetwide averages that the Ten in Ten Fuel Economy Act intended to raise.