- Date published:
7:49 am, September 25th, 2015 - 109 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, corruption, Environment, Ethics, health, quality of life, science, Social issues, spin, Tobacco, transport, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: cars, diesel, health, industry, pollution, spin, volkswagen
German car manufacturer Volkswagen have gamed pollution tests. Turns out their ‘clean green’ diesels are anything but. The Guardian reckons that the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from the diesel cars produced by just this one company could equate to the cumulative emissions of NOx from all of the UK power stations, industry, road vehicles and agriculture combined.
A big deal? Well, yeah. In studies for just one city, London, NOx pollution has been linked to some 9 500 premature deaths over the course of a year. That matters. By way of comparison smoking was reckoned to have caused around 8 500 premature deaths in London in 2010.
VW aren’t some rogue company or a ‘bad apple’ spoiling the barrel. It would appear that all manufacturers have been gaming performance tests. In other studies, car models from every single major car manufacturer were found to emit far greater levels of NOx in real world conditions (average x7) than they did under test conditions and to fail EU regulations.
Globally, there are 46 manufacturers of diesel road vehicles. So add their impact on top of whatever damage is being caused by VW. Putting aside heavy construction and off-road vehicles, we’re looking at the diesel proportion of some 1.2 billion road vehicles across the world.
This particular group of pollutants aren’t a climate change or global warming issue. If anything, some nitrogen oxides may have a slight cooling effect, but they are a major and hitherto hidden serious public health issue.
So given that NOx are a major contributor to air pollution and that air pollution kills more of us than malaria and HIV/Aids combined; and given that in certain conurbations NOx kills more of us than smoking tobacco ever did – then where are the public health service announcements demonising our habit for driving, and calling for us as a society to rid ourselves of this huge scourge on our health and well-being?
After writing this post, I came across one depressing answer to that question. There is a testing regime for CO2 emissions from vehicles – the World Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP). It was to be redrafted. The reason for the redraft is that the WLTP is riddled with loop-holes manufacturers use, allowing them to publish test scenario emissions that can be up to 20% below real world emission scenarios. The governments of Germany, France and the UK lobbied for the loopholes to be preserved.