Volkswagen emissions scandal

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The first episode of Dirty Money was fascinating. It interviews the key people involved, talks about the issue, how it happened, how the government stumbled on the truth, and in only 7 years, got around to doing their jobs (partly because of VW's stonewalling and distractions). It even accidentally mumbles that the other auto-makers were doing the same thing. The only thing it left out is "why?" Why would VW take this risk?

You're spoon-fed the ideas that it was just greed and arrogance that caused the callous disregard for the planet. And I'm sure greed and arrogance were part of it. But it forgets to hint at the truth: the regulations were unmitigated bullshit. The truth was it was because CARB and the EPA set unreasonable and unattainable standard, and so VW had a choice of surrender a market, or cheat. You might not agree with VW's decision, but if you don't know why they did it, then you don't understand what happened. This documentary (and most of the media) leaves you ignorant of why, while feeling like you know more than you do. It turns people into progressives: arrogant, ignorant and sanctimonious (or worse: willing to lie for their cause).

Details

After pretending NOx is like Zyklon B, the show sensationalizes a dumb PR stunt that VW was considering showing how much less bad their Diesel was compared to older American Diesels (which was true BTW), by subjecting humans to the exhaust, before they moved to monkeys. But that flim-flams and distracts from the truth that VW was trying to show: NOx and particulates aren't great, but they aren't death in an exhaust pipe like the EPA and CARB and this "Documentary" were trying to convince the gullible.

The truth is:

  1. NOx only matters, in certain concentrations -- in the 1960's and 1970's, they were well above thresholds that causes problems. By the 1980's and 1990's they were well below concerning thresholds in most cities. And by mid 2000's the ONLY reason to pass stricter NOx regulations on ONLY passenger cars, was politics (not science).
  2. The numbers vary a bit by area and time, but loosely, contributors of NOx in order are nature (≈20%), industrial (≈40%), and transportation (≈40%). Then in transportation gasoline is half (≈50%) and diesel is about half (≈50%), though Diesel takes fewer vehicles to produce that. Then in Diesel vehicles, commercial trucking is like ≈90% and light trucks and cars are ≈10% of total output. Then in diesel cars, VW is only one of the makers (but the largest player). That means in total, VW was responsible for ≈2% of all NOx emissions., which had already come way down, and were beyond any threshold from caring. Contrary to what the watermelons will tell you, this cheating hurt no one, except a few regulators feelings. They didn't destroy the planet, and if nobody had found out by testing the cars, no one would have ever found out by impacts to the environment. So this much ado about regulatory overreach.
  3. What happened is that from the 1960's to early 2000's we'd cut industrial NOx's in half (50%) and transportation down by about 40%. Also hydrocarbons and more importantly soot and other pollutants had come way down as well (despite number of cars going up). California's political air-resources board (CARB) decided if a little is good, a lot is better. CARB decided to cut car standards down by another 85% starting in the mid 2000's (remember it was Gasoline cars, Commercial trucking, Industry and other sources that were responsible for 98% of NOx. Since physics/technology didn't agree with CARB, this was just a way to drive all diesel cars out of the state (and 14 states stupid enough to follow CARB). And since more of VW's business was based on their clean diesel than anyone else, they had a choice: abandon the market and market position, or were forced to cheat.

Now I don't know if CARB was stupid or evil: whether they did it just because they hate diesels (I suspect), or because they didn't know what they were asking (they might be that dumb). But knowing the basics or not, they were destroying VW's business for the fraud of "helping the environment", even though that was complete bullshit since NOx was lower than ever, and was not a problem in most of California, and punishing diesel cars did nothing to solve that the problems. In the end, the VW management likely felt that CARB was arrogant, ignorant and unreasonable: and they were backed into a corner of cheat, or give up a whole market (that consumers wanted), over a fraudulent, abusive bureaucracy. And it's in that context that they decided to create a cheat (a "defeat device").

You might not agree with VW's decision, but if you don't know why they did it, then you don't understand what happened. And this documentary leaves you ignorant of why, while feeling like you know more than what you do. It turns people into progressives: arrogant, ignorant and sanctimonious (or worse: willing to lie for their cause).

So they did a good job of documenting how VW cheated, but leaving their viewers ignorant as to why it happened. And the important question of did CARB overreach, were these regulations good regulations, or punitive destruction of a technology because they wanted (or got kickbacks) from electric cars. Of course this didn't explore anything deeper than a VW hatefest, even going so far as to over-dramatize their Nazi origins. Starting by calling your enemies Nazi's, and ending with lies of omission.

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