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News Opinion & Editorial

Das Bad Auto

For years, environmentalists have accused diesel engine cars of producing more harmful emissions, such as NOx compounds, which are vital components of urban smog on the road than in the laboratory. Automakers have viscously denied these accusations.

It turns out that at least one of them—the car giant Volkswagen—was lying.

Environmentalists have been petitioning for years to get European cars tested by the standards set in California (the strictest standards in the Western world), and they finally did so recently. What they found was that Volkswagen cars have special software that detects when the cars are undergoing environmental efficiency testing in the lab. The software switches the way the engine runs to make the exhaust cleaner, at the expense of the power and performance of the car. When researchers took it out onto a real road they found it miserably failed the environmental standards set in both Europe and the United States.

This is legitimate fraud, especially considering Volkswagen’s marketing campaign of  “Clean Diesel.” What’s more, it seems that 11 million cars worldwide have this software installed. That is a lot of noxious fumes that harm both our environment and our safety. Unfortunately, we don’t know quite how far down the rabbit hole goes—it could be that this problem is one that is not limited to just one automaker. It could span an entire industry.

True fraud like this is not only ethically wrong, it is truly disgusting. For all the work that’s been put in to lowering our environmental footprint on the Earth, it’s deliberate double-dealing like Volkswagen’s which goes behind our collective backs and undoes all the progress we’ve made.

The most sickening part of this scandal shows not only a wanton disregard for rules and regulations that have been painstakingly set in place but also an egregious disregard for the wider human population. The irritants produced by the cars–NOx compounds–are a big deal in environmental science because of the numerous adverse affects they can have on people. NOx can aggravate heart disease, cause bronchitis, or even lead to death by lung tissue damage in extreme cases. Moreover, NOx compounds are greenhouse gases, and are key components of urban smog and acid rain.

This is 2015. I think it’s time that we all started obeying the rules, Volkswagen.

by Sid Menon’17


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