Based on a review of documents detailing what Exon Mobil knew about the company’s role in climate change, Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes, writing in The New York Times, conclude that “Exxon Mobil misled the public about the state of climate science and its implications. Available documents show a systematic, quantifiable discrepancy between what Exxon Mobil’s scientists and executives discussed about climate change in private and in academic circles, and what it presented to the general public.” Their analysis is published in Environmental Research Letters. A coalition of state attorneys general and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether the company lied to the public and investors about what it knew about the dangers of climate change. Making corporations liable for misleading investors about scientific evidence may be a valuable strategy for public health advocates seeking to reduce harmful corporate practices.
A cloud of suspicion hanging over Volkswagen thickened, reports The New York Times, after a lawyer for a jailed former engineer said his client implicated top managers of the German carmaker’s Audi luxury brand in a continuing diesel cheating scandal. Statements and evidence provided to German investigators by the former head of thermodynamics in Audi’s engine development department suggest that knowledge of emissions fraud reached higher in the ranks of management than Volkswagen has admitted. No members of the company’s management board have been charged, although investigations are continuing.
The European Environment Agency estimates that 75,000 Europeans died prematurely as a result of nitrogen oxide poisoning in 2012 – among them 22,000 in Italy, 14,000 in Great Britain and 10,000 in Germany. In an attempt to protect the health of EU citizens, nitrogen oxide emissions limits have been established across Europe. Since 2010, that limit has been set at an annual maximum of 40 micrograms of NOx per cubic meter. Beyond that, all automobiles produced after January 2000 have been required to meet NOx emission reduction standards. Yet automakers have shamelessly flouted such emissions and health protection standards, reports Gears of Biz, a technology newsletter. Automobiles were equipped with software designed to trick laboratory ratings tests, and in normal driving conditions emissions far exceeded legal limits. A 1,500-euro ($1,750) fix could save thousands of lives – but carmakers are unwilling to pay.
Germany’s high-end carmakers face a potentially destructive new scandal after European antitrust authorities said on Saturday that they were looking into allegations that Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW colluded illegally to hold down the prices of crucial technology, including emissions equipment, reports The New York Times. The emissions scandal, which came to light nearly two years ago, may now be spreading to rivals. Growing awareness of the harmful effects of diesel fumes has prompted European cities to consider bans of diesel cars and has led consumers to reject cars with diesel engines, a largely German innovation that traditionally accounted for half the market. The backlash could take on a new, far broader dimension if it turns out that the excess emissions were the result of illegal collusion by a de facto cartel. The investigation could also lead to billions of euros in fines.
When President Trump traveled to Michigan last week to announce that his administration will reevaluate (and almost certainly weaken) a key environmental achievement of the past decade — new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks — he alleged that “industry-killing regulations” had contributed to a loss of jobs in the U.S. automobile sector. The truth is, however, writes Yale Environment 360 that there is no factual basis for the claim that stricter standards have killed jobs. There is, however, abundant evidence that these regulations have saved Americans billions of dollars at the pump, bolstered U.S. energy independence, fostered automotive innovation, and led to major reductions in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
A report in Environmental Health Letters estimates that 1,200 people in Europe will die prematurely because of excess nitrous oxide emissions released in Germany after Volkswagen installed “defeat device” software that allowed the cars to cheat on emissions test. The MIT authors also estimate that by recalling and repairing the affected cars in Germany to meet current emissions standards by the end of 2017, Volkswagen could avert 2,600 additional premature deaths and save 4.1 billion euros in health costs.
Full citation: Chossière GP, Malina R, Ashok A, et al. Public health impacts of excess NOx emissions from Volkswagen diesel passenger vehicles in Germany. Environ. Res. Lett. 2017; 12:1-14.
Court documents filed this week allege that five auto companies were aware of defects that caused Takata air bags to potentially harm or kill motorists but continued to use them anyway to save on costs, reports The Washington Post. The documents claim that Honda, Ford, BMW, Toyota and Nissan have known about the issues with the Japanese manufacturer’s air bags for more than a decade but still used them because Takata was cheaper than its competitors and could produce the bulk quantities the automakers needed, according to the court documents.