From NBC's Betsy Cline
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Americans "to get out there and buy cars" as he officially kicked off Cash for Clunkers this morning.
LaHood complimented what he called the "extraordinary" efforts of Congress: he said no rule had ever been written and passed in just 30 days. Rep. Betty Sutton, Rep. John Dingell (on crutches), Sen. Carl Levin, and Rep. Sandy Levin joined LaHood at the kick-off.
Video: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood discuses the expected gains from the new car rebate program on CNBC.
"This is really a three-fer -- good for the economy, good for consumers, and good for the environment," Levin said.
LaHood added that the program will help struggling consumers buy reliable cars, help community dealerships, and lower carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption. Sutton also suggested the program would improve national security, because, she said, it will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
"We know there's an enormous amount of interest," LaHood said. "With the number of hits on the Web site, we expect thousands of people will be in showrooms across the country."
According to LaHood, the $1 billion allocation from Congress should cover approximately 250,000 cars. As for what happens if the money runs out, LaHood said, "Stay tuned."