“Blood on their hands”
This stark statement is by Sir David King, a former chief scientist to the British Government. He was responding to the latest news that the three German car companies, Volkswagen, Daimler and Audi had exposed ten Java monkeys to diesel fumes from a VW Beetle by locking them into airtight chambers to judge the side effects. Thomas Steg, the chief lobbyist for Volkswagen regrets this now, but explains in mitigation that he had prevented the same tests being done on humans!
These tests on the monkeys were part of the effort by VW to “prove” that newer diesels were less polluting than older models. These efforts included fiddling emission tests with software that could detect when a car was being tested as opposed to being on the open road. When the car was on the road, the emissions were way above the safe limit and it is estimated that this pollution by poisonous Nitrous Oxides has led to thousands of extra deaths : hence Sir David’s “Blood on their hands” comment.
The German government and the EU are, late in the day, horrified by all this.
However it is of concern to note, that the offending fiddling of emission tests was discovered, not by the European authorities but by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Volkswagen claimed in evidence before Congressional Hearings that the fiddling of the tests was the work of a few rogue engineers: this explanation was not taken seriously by the US authorities or anybody else. All owners of VW diesels in the US have been generously compensated to the order of billions of dollars. The same compensation has not been afforded to VW diesel owners in the UK.
The reason that diesel was so popular and being pushed hard by European governments (including our own under Gordon Brown) was that diesel engines are much more efficient and have reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared to a petrol engine. The fact that diesels operate at a higher temperature is the reason for this improved efficiency but they do also produce the poisonous nitrous oxides. Diesel cars were given a favourable tax treatment to encourage their sales.
The green lobby with their obsession about carbon dioxide emissions have some questions to answer. Why were they so obsessed with CO2 levels from cars and rather overlooking the poisonous level of nitrous oxides? This pushed lots of consumers to buy diesels for environmental reasons. Diesel owners are now left with a car that is a rapidly declining asset, and with threats of being penalised in the future.
The EPA of the USA was persuaded by the green lobby to have CO2 described as a pollutant: the fact is, that CO2 in our atmosphere is essential to life and if the levels are too low, plant life cannot thrive.
While we should be very conscious of the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, I think we should be even more active and concerned about the threats of the here and now, such as the levels of Nitrous Oxides which are poisoning people today.