I’m still shaking my head and asking out loud, “what were they thinking?” Am I getting this right?: Volkswagen installed software so its diesel-polluting vehicles would deceive EPA-mandated emissions tests. And buyers of the vehicles were deceived by Volkswagen. The company led them to believe they could get a car with power, performance, high miles per gallon, and “clean diesel,” while not suffering from sticker shock.
What those owners and the rest of us didn’t know was the price we were paying in terms of public health. Brad Plumer at Vox offers a back-of-the-envelope estimate on the air pollution-related deaths attributed to Volkswagen’s diesel emissions fraud. He explains:
”Volkswagen’s 482,000 problematic US cars are currently emitting between 5,800 to 14,200 additional tons of nitrogen oxide pollution (NOx) each year, assuming the cars are driven the US average.”
He extrapolates that to the 11 million affected vehicles worldwide and calculates:
“…between 86,800 and 212,500 additional tons of NOx emissions per year.”
Using EPA’s risk assessment for the number of premature deaths for every ton of NOx emitted from vehicles in the US, Plumer estimates:
“…the extra pollution from Volkswagen’s US cars can be expected to lead to an additional 5 to 27 premature deaths per year. If we extrapolated worldwide to all 11 million vehicles, that would come to somewhere between 74 and 404 premature deaths each year.”
I’ve been following Plumer’s reporting on VW’s pollution scheme after first reading this in his September 23 story:
“Since 2009, Volkswagen had been installing elaborate software in 482,000 ‘clean diesel’ vehicles sold in the US, so that the cars’ pollution controls only worked when being tested for emissions. The rest of the time, the vehicles could freely spew hazardous, smog-forming compounds.”
In my small neighborhood, there are at least four VW diesel Jetta Sportwagens. Here’s a photo of one of them.
It’s courtesy of Dr. Teya Rosenberg who is a professor in the English Department at Texas State University, where she teaches children’s literature, fantasy, and Canadian literature. She wrote the following on her Facebook page and gave me permission to repost it.
“Here is my car, shiny red in the North Atlantic sun. It is a great road trip car: excellent mileage, fun to drive, enough room for all the books and files and crap I carry around.
“It is also, as we have all recently heard, a symbol for the corruption and cynicism of big business in this world where the free market and big profits are gods and government regulation and oversight is considered bad, bad-bad, bad…..my 2013 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI (diesel).
“Can’t sell it, can’t park it (at least until I drive the 3,500 miles back to TX), tempted to stop making payments on it.”
Thanks Teya for this well-stated dilemma of a VW diesel owner. I’ve been wondering about the thoughts of other VW owners of the suspect vehicles. What about the family whose child who suffers from asthma? Or an owner who herself is challenged by a respiratory disease. What’s it like to know that the vehicle you thought was a “clean diesel” is actually spewing NOx at 15 to 35 times the EPA limit? For those who are p.o.’d, you’re in good company.