Saturday, September 26, 2015

VW cheating on emissions part of fundamental economic and political problems

The public discovery and outrage over cheating by VW on emissions tests for their diesel cars over many years has already resulted in the resignation of some top officials, as well as many lawsuits and other legal actions. However, careful analysis shows it is part of a much bigger problem. There are a number of good articles about this. Here are some excerpts from one article which links and challenges orthodoxies:

"For a meaningless cut in greenhouse emissions, Europe got higher emissions of nitrogen oxides and diesel particulates. While claims of thousands of additional deaths from this diesel pollution are questionable, Europe now realizes it converted half its cars to diesel for no good reason. And this is just the beginning.

If carbon dioxide is a problem, cars were never the solution. Cars and light trucks account for less than 8% of global emissions; U.S. cars and light trucks account for less than 3%. U.S. car makers are being required by government to spend hundreds of billions on fuel-mileage improvements in the name of global warming that will have virtually zero effect on global warming.
The real carbon problem, if it’s a problem, is upstream in power plants and heavy industry. If those problems are solved, cars might as well go on burning gasoline. If those problems aren’t solved, cars contribute little.

What if we insist on carbon-free cars anyway? Even then, the internal-combustion engine is far from obsolete. Hydrogen, manufactured using non-carbon energy, could fuel the cars we have on the road now. So could biofuels. Electric cars, which we subsidize out the wazoo, not only are insufficient to solve any carbon problem. They are unnecessary....

Expect, even now, a decorous investigation of the VW scandal. Don’t expect a full exposure of the panic when the company realized it could not hit the U.S. emissions targets for nitrogen oxide, plus the Obama fuel mileage requirements, plus customer expectations for price and performance in an affordable sedan...

Politicians who accept huge costs on behalf of the public in order to pose as saviors of the climate, for policies that will have no impact on climate change; business people who play along out of self-interest or fear; a science community whose members endorse the RICO Act to prosecute people who question the claims of climate science.

As a historical note, the mental antecedent here is the energy crisis of the 1970s, which became conflated with the environmental crisis of the 1970s, bequeathing an intuition that requiring higher-mileage vehicles would solve some actual problem (it wouldn’t)."