Volkswagen's intentional fraud resulted in an extra 1,000,000 metric tons of air pollution being spewed into the skies over America; if they'd extended the con to Europe (where there are far more diesels), it would have been orders of magnitude worse.
It's an almost unimaginably depraved act, and it's hard to believe that VW is the only company that tried this tactic — after all, it produced some pretty sweet profits.
The US government and VW owners are going to take some big chunks out of the company in legal settlements, but that's not enough. So long as other car companies — and their investors — think that there's a chance of getting away with it — they'll keep on killing the world, and not in tiny nibbles, but in huge, VW-sized mouthfulls.
There's only one remedy: after the C-suite has been led away in handcuffs, after the fines have been paid, kill the company. Don't let "too big to fail" be a license to destroy the planet. Break up its assets, have a receiver or special master apportion them to firms that are obligated to keep the maintenance and parts stream going, and wipe out the shareholders.
Do that and the next day, every institutional shareholder in every car company in the world will order fine-toothed audits of all manufacturing and firmware practices, with disclosure and remediation, along with termination for any exec complicit in similar cons.
Last week, a report from NGO Transport & Environment found that Europe's testing regime was allowing nine out of every 10 new diesel vehicles to breach EU limits. Testing regimes in the EU are known to fail to pick up "real world" emissions because cars are not driven in the same way in the laboratory as on the road. Some studies suggest the discrepancy may be up to seven times the legal limit.
Williams said being able to mask their NOx emissions would also enable carmakers to pass carbon emissions tests more easily as there was a trade-off between NOx and CO2 in diesel engines.
Catherine Bearder MEP, a lead negotiator on the EU's new air quality laws, said: "Manufacturers in the US have been caught out, but we know that pollution limits are also being breached in Europe… Unless we take action, thousands of lives will continue to be tragically cut short by air pollution."
VW scandal caused nearly 1m tonnes of extra pollution, analysis shows
[Karl Mathiesen and Arthur Neslen/The Guardian]
(Image: London MMB »0I6 Canary Wharf, Mattbuck, CC-BY-SA)