Congressman Bruce Braley is defending the “cash for clunkers” program against critics who say many transactions involved pick-up owners trading in an old truck for a new truck.

An analysis by the Associated Press found the “single most common” trade-ins involved owners of “clunker” Ford F-150 pick-ups who bought a new F-150. The new trucks get about three more miles to the gallon compared to the old F-150s, but, overall, the new F-150s get less than 20 miles to the gallon.  Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, defends the program against those who say it has done little to improve the average gas consumption of vehicles on America’s roads.

“I think those criticisms are absurd because if you look at the data that was collected, the average increase in mileage for the cars that were traded in and the cars that were purchased was 9.2 miles per galllon,” Braley says.  “When you multiply that times the 700,000 vehicles that were replaced on the road, it has an enormous impact on fuel efficiency and on the environment.” 

The second-most popular “cash for clunkers” trade was an old Ford Escape for a new Ford Explorer.  The Associated Press analysis found at least half a million dollars worth of trade-ins saw people buy a new vehicle that got worse gas mileage than their “clunker.”  The most-commonly-purchased car in the “cash for clunkers” program was the fuel-efficient Toyota Corolla.

According to Braley, the primary aim of the “cash for clunkers” program wasn’t improving gas milesage — it was reviving the auto industry. A Ball State University study released earlier this week concluded the program sparked an increase in auto sales over the summer.

“I think that most economists who have looked at this program agree that it is one of the most spectacularly successful short-term stimulus programs the federal government has ever passed,” Braley says. “It put nearly 40,000 people back to work who either work in manufacturing facilities making these automobiles or in the component part manufacturers who serve into them, so I think it’s been an overwhelming success and I’m very proud to have been one of the original sponsors.” 

 The federal government spent about three billion dollars on the “cash for clunkers” program.