It’s a perverse situation that backfired badly in more ways than one. The Volkswagen car company allegedly decided it would be easier to cheat on their emissions tests than fulfill their obligations to clean up their diesel engines. They have been caught red-handed and now they’re facing a full-blown crisis in their business. This week, Big Autos have learned what Big Oil, Big Coal and others learned the hard way: if there is one US environmental law you don’t mess with, it’s the Clean Air Act.
A Pillar of the Law
For over 50 years the Clean Air Act has been a pillar of US Federal environmental law. Rules enforced under the act are credited with saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Initially the statute was used to clean up toxins like mercury and lead from gasoline but lately it has been leveraged by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. It is a powerful legal tool with a proud track record of delivering important environmental benefits.
For reasons which will have to be explained, Volkswagen appear to have decided that cheating on their obligations under the Clean Air Act would be easier than making their cars cleaner. They are alleged to have installed cheating software that tricked the testers into thinking that up to 11 million vehicles were legal when they may have been up to 40 times over the emissions limits. It seems likely that, for years, Volkswagen and Audi diesel engines have been putting out much more greenhouse gas pollution than is permitted.
Blowback for Volkswagen Emission Cheats
This is commercial and planetary self-harm, of course. The German-headquartered Volkswagen is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of vehicles after Toyota. It has already apologised for the underhand tactics but it’s too little, too late. The German giant is facing a meltdown faster than any Arctic glacier with a plummeting stock price, a product recall of enormous proportions, possible criminal investigations and fines of up to $18 billion in the USA plus probes in the EU and elsewhere. There are also cloudy skies ahead in the incalculable effect on the trust in their commercial brand and untold damage to the environment. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also said it would widen its investigation to other car makers.
As global temperatures are trending up, sea levels are rising inexorably and with the the ecosystem under fire all over the world, many of us could be forgiven for a sense of schadenfreude about the plight of the irresponsible German giant. Of course, the message going out to them from Celestial Green Ventures is the same as for everyone else: if Volkswagen (who also manufacture Audi vehicles) or anybody else wishes to go balance their unavoidable emissions, we are happy to make it possible by generating Natural Capital Credits which are available on the Voluntary Carbon Market. Vorsprung Durch Natur, you could say. What we won’t do, however, is help you cheat, because that would be wrong.
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