Emissions on VW Diesel Vehicles
We know that:
1) NoX emissions higher than stated
2) the purchasers of the cars have been harmed
-First, by the perception that their VW would pollute less than it did
-Second, the residual, accumulated pollution that users of VW Clean Diesels put in the air without their knowing (making them an inadvertent agent of environmental destruction)
3) A fix would make the cars undesirable. Its marketing appeal drops markedly and its value too
4) Mother nature is being harmed, more so than the owners. She is due damages–more so than the owners who were simply being used/lied to–
a) …on an ongoing basis as the vehicles stay on road (more eco-destruction)
b)… if the vehicles aren’t fixed, for ongoing pollution unless they are destroyed
Buybacks and transfers to countries with fewer restrictions on emissions are a real issue. VW might be able to get around governments and regulatory bodies, but the environmental damage will continue. By selling their vehicles back, owners may not be directly responsible for their use elsewhere, but the right thing to do is not to let resale ever occur.
We also know that:
1) Many other vehicles pollute more and are not subject to testing
2) Many other vehicles manufacturers have cheated on emissions testing
How many of these are out there?
Are VW owners being singled out? If they are the problem, what about #1, above? It would be fairer to have an emissions testing protocol for all vehicles on a recurring basis.
3) States reserve to right to regulate vehicle emissions, or not
Aren’t emissions a federal issue as it impacts the entirety of the country? Not necessarily true with NoX, though CO2, yes.
For these Clean Diesel vehicles, carbon dioxide emissions are not a problem. NoX emissions are more localized (far less likely to cross state lines or impact other states.)
If it’s Utah’s job to regulate vehicle emissions in a valley in Utah, then they should undertake a course of action to regulate vehicles operating in that environment.
I suspect that regulating the commercial vehicle population in a specific area prone to NoX pollution is the most effective and cost beneficial way to see a drop in the emissions of NoX. Regulatory efforts can encourage the use of lower emission natural gas vehicles or hybrids, ditching even more NoX.
Ideally, all sources of NoX in that area need to be targeted and I don’t know if passenger vehicle emissions are the most effective regulatory target, especially only going after VWs: every vehicle would need to be accurately tested.
Regulation requires testing. The tests must be accurate or the regulatory purpose and environmental benefit are nullified.
It’s unfair to make VW owners responsible for emissions they were told that their car would not produce. This is a clear legal case for misrepresentation (at the dealer level, where the largest lawsuits will likely originate) where buyers were told by unknowing sales reps they were buying a green vehicle.
Car buybacks aren’t a solution if those vehicles aren’t polluting as much as others currently on the road. Why not take the VW money to buy back some real lemons and worse polluters?
Buybacks also don’t work from an ecological perspective if the vehicle is resold and stays on the road, anywhere in the world, where they’ continue to do their damage (although less than other vehicles most likely.)
Buybacks at the Kelly Blue Book prices would not reflect any ecological consequences that VW’s betrayal of consumer trust has caused.
Buybacks at full purchase price don’t reflect the use and benefit the driver/owner has experienced. However among those who consider emissions a top priority–the environmentally sensitive–their use of the vehicle has been impinged. Their impression of VW is rightfully one of indignation.
However, compensatory damages can only occur if their owners are deprived of the use of their VWs. Except in those areas where use of these vehicles is regulated, owners are free to continue to use their vehicles but doing so constitutes a known source of environmental pollution. Thus the ecologically sensitive owner is deprived from the guiltless pleasure of driving their VW vehicle, depriving them of the use of their VWs on moral grounds.
Only the owners who feel remorse at their vehicle’s emissions would be morally bound to not use them. Those–again in states were these vehicles aren’t regulated–who feel no loss at the environmental consequences of continuing to use these vehicles are not entitled to compensatory damages, or for emotional distress, as environmental issues weren’t–and aren’t–a reason for purchase and ongoing use.
Most owners of these vehicles don’t have a second vehicle, or using an alternative means of transportation aren’t available. The sale–at depressed prices due to their regulatory baggage–of the TDI vehicle causes direct financial damage to them. So VW is on the hook for any losses in resale value, as well as up to half of any new vehicle’s value that occurs when we drive it off the lot for the first time.
The NoX does have an impact on people’s health and should be reduced. Under that logic, all high NoX emitters should be fixed–or taxed.
Once a vehicle is sold, after-market modifications can create higher NoX emissions, and those vehicles generally aren’t tested on an ongoing basis in most of the U.S..
To fix an emissions problem, there must be a means of testing accurately. By creating a emissions cheat, VW has committed fraud in its representations to government that its vehicles were in compliance. It is clearly liable to all the states and entities regulating emissions who tested their vehicles, or relied upon VW’s truthfulness.
These regulatory bodies have more of a claim to represent the environment than do the owners who weren’t injured as grievously. The EPA is at the front of the line. The fines and penalties for the cheat need to be directed at remedying the ecological consequences of too much NoX over the length of the vehicle’s usable lifespan.
VW has a vested interest in removing all the Clean Diesels from the road, eternally. A solution that keeps the polluting vehicles on the road–perhaps in a Third World country–doesn’t stop the ongoing damage from occurring; it’s simply the transference of the location from which NoX pollution originates.
The vehicles may be neutered with a fix to reduce their NoX emissions. But then again, why? There are plenty of other vehicles that emit more NoX, and no one is moving to fix them.
Absent an effective regulatory regime, the argument that these vehicles are worse than any others will be un-provable. Of course they produce NoX. But surely other vehicles emit more and would be a more fruitful target of regulatory scrutiny if reducing the “overproduction” –a subjective term–of NoX is the real regulatory goal.
A real nationwide regulatory scheme would work if emissions could be tested accurately. A gas tax could be put on those vehicles which use more fuel and emit more CO2. Likewise, a NoX tax could go on vehicles which operate in a vulnerable area like a valley or dense urban corridor.
Carbon taxes are more justifiable as the leading source of CO2 pollution comes from vehicles. CO2 is not the worst greenhouse gas however–methane is–raising the question of whether the regulation of CO2 emissions is the best place to start.
NoX’s area of impact is not as widespread, so introducing a nationwide regulatory regime, if politically permissible, would likely not be as effective as targeting other emission sources. Nor would it be justifiable under the 10th Amendment separating the power of the federal government from that of the states.
Greener paths forward
The threat posed by global climate change justifies a nationwide regulatory regime if it reduces those emissions. The best way to prevent ecological harm is to avoid the meat industry, avoiding the production of methane and the inefficient use of land to create livestock feed.
Much of that feed is GMO and injurious to the health of the animals and the soil. Already our soils have been depleted of their nutrients and the overuse of herbicides has ruined the substrata and encouraged the rise of superweeds, not to mention many ecological impacts on bees and human health.
Factory farming with its CFOs–Combined Feeding Operations–are a noxious blight on our land, and the food supply is jeopardized by operations that require antibiotic use in the tightly confined, filthy spaces to which these poor animals are confined at length.
OK, yeah, so don’t eat meat as often. Or when you do, order grass-fed beef from family farms in your area. Or go with buffalo or elk, which may be less destructive of their pasture lands.
For more details, see