Schumer seeks subsidies for people trading in gas-powered vehicles for electric cars

Originally published in Newsday on October 27, 2019.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, flanked by state lawmakers from Long Island, unveiled details of a “cash-for-clunkers” bill he said would reduce carbon emissions by providing motorists who trade in gasoline-powered vehicles with subsidies to purchase electric cars. 

The Clean Cars for America initiative would combat climate change by removing 63 million carbon-emitting cars from American roads, Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday at a news conference in Manhattan. It would also create thousands of new jobs, boost the U.S. auto industry and save motorists thousands of dollars each year in fuel costs. 

“Take a typical family on Long Island,” Schumer said. “They would be able to switch to electric at a lower price and not have to pay gas bills. Your cost for charging the car is much, much less than the cost of gasoline.” 

Schumer’s bill would provide subsidies worth at least $3,000 to motorists who trade in gasoline-powered vehicles. Low-income households would receive an additional $2,000 rebate for new electric vehicles or a 20% rebate on used vehicles built before the program goes into effect. 

The bill also provides $45 billion in grants to states, cities and municipalities to build charging stations in private homes, streets and public parking lots.

Schumer was joined at Sunday’s news conference by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), the sponsors of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, signed into law this year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The New York measure, the most aggressive in the nation, calls for carbon emissions in the state to be reduced to 15% of 1990 levels by 2050. 

Englebright called Schumer’s proposal “revolutionary” and Kaminsky said it would transform the United States just as the construction of the electric grid changed the nation in the 1930s. 

“This is the main way we are going to get carbon out of the atmosphere,” Kaminsky said. 

General Motors, Ford and other auto manufacturers support the proposal, Schumer said, as do the United Auto Workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “They know their future is electric,” Schumer said.

Schumer said his Clean Cars for America initiative has also been embraced by environmental groups. Loren Blackford, national president of the Sierra Club, and Luke Tonachel, director of clean vehicles and fuels for the Natural Resources Defense Council, also attended Sunday’s news conference. 

“What we particularly love about this is its focus on affordable solutions,” Blackford said. “We know the climate crisis can only be addressed if nobody is left behind.”

Schumer said his bill will help the United States regain supremacy in the auto market. 

“We will restore America to being the leading car manufacturer in the world,” Schumer said. “We will leap ahead of China.”