We've heard all about the wildfires that have been raging in the western US, and the lengths that normal citizens are going to to fight them. Now, Congress is finally stepping in to deliver some aid of its own. The funds, though, could come at the expense of the auto industry.

The Republican House Appropriations Committee is working on a $24.3-billion spending bill, with $1.5 billion earmarked to help the smoldering west. But in this cash-strapped environment, where will the funds come from? The answer, despite previous reports, is the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, which was approved for $25 billion by Congress in 2008.

With funds managed by the Department of Energy, the ATVM program was meant to spark production of high-mileage and alternative-energy vehicles in the US auto industry. Tesla, along with efforts from Ford and Nissan, have been the only notable successes in a sea of failures.

The high-profile collapse of Fisker, and a certain gun-shy attitude after the Solyndra fiasco, has seemingly led to a lack of loans from the fund. With over $25 billion promised, the DOE has only doled about a bit less than $9 billion, having rejected over 100 companies' requests for funds. As The Detroit News points out, there also haven't been any new loans in two years.


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