It had to happen — and now it has.
VW — and soon, everyone else, inevitably — is under the gun over “emissions” that aren’t even pollutants.
This inert gas (look it up if you missed it in high school chemistry) doesn’t contribute to smog, cause acid rain, deplete the the ozone layer, irritate the lungs, or harm babies. Plants breathe it and by breathing it, produce the oxygen we need to breathe. If C02 is a “pollutant” then according to the same logic, so is water vapor (oy, don’t give them ideas).
But carbon dioxide is a “greenhouse gas” that contributes to “climate change,” the new (and pope-approved!) catch-all phrase that encompasses warmer and colder weather, neatly pathologizing both of them.
Cows produce it; we produce it and cars produce it.
VW is in the crosshairs because of this.
A couple of days ago, the company issued another apologia (here) for “understating” the “emissions” of this inert gas by its gasoline (note italics) powered cars. The “affected” vehicles (about 1 million of them, so far) this time aren’t U.S. models but they aren’t diesel models.
In Europe, you see, they already treat carbon dioxide — an inert gas — as a motor vehicle exhaust subject to government regulation. This is not yet the case in the U.S., but it is only a matter of time.
As they used to say in Germany before the war — der tag kommt.
The Europeans have fully embraced the climate change tar baby — which means they’ve accepted the idea that the inert gas, carbon dioxide, is something that must be “controlled.”
And you can’t control C02 without controlling people.
That’s the beauty of it — from the perspective of those who want to “save the planet” from personal mobility via the privately owned car: Carbon dioxide emissions can’t be eliminated or even appreciably “controlled” without eliminating or severely controlling internal combustion. Because C02 is the product of normal combustion whereas the exhaust emissions heretofore considered harmful (and regulated) are the byproducts of imperfect (incomplete) combustion.
Again, note the italics.
Since the dawn of the Emissions Era — the late 1960s, when the first steps were taken to “control” what came out of the tailpipe — the object has been to make combustion more complete because it is chiefly incomplete combustion that results in the stuff that wrinkles your nose, smogs the sky, and waters your eyes. Not all the gas that’s fed to the engine ends up being consumed by the engine; a certain percentage of unburned hydrocarbons (that’s the fuel) escapes into the air via the tailpipe.
For the past almost 50 years, emissions controls have sought to capture or convert these unburned hydrocarbons into harmless compounds such as — wait for it — carbon dioxide and water vapor. Which — it used to be thought — were no threat to anyone’s health, including the planet’s.
But that all changed with the advent of “climate change,” the modern (and increasingly global) snipe hunt. Carbon dioxide became the new bogeyman — which was necessary, since the old (and real) bogeyman (actually harmful emissions) had been dealt with.
The cause must go on, you see.
If pollution as it used to be understood is no longer a problem (about 95 percent of a new car’s exhaust is “clean” in terms of the heretofore accepted definition of harmful pollutants) then new forms of pollution must be invented.
So that they can be “controlled,” of course.
Enter carbon dioxide.
Which is the perfect “pollutant” because it results from complete combustion. Grok that. No matter how “clean” an IC engine may be, it will always “emit” C02. There is no way for it not to emit C02.
At least, not without turning the engine off.
The best one can do is make the engine really small. Because the less fuel it burns, the less C02 it creates. There is no mechanical way to reduce C02 “emissions” via say a catalytic converter or port fuel injection. It would be like trying to “control” the amount of gas you and I exhale.
We can only do that by breathing less.
Carbon dioxide is what internal combustion engines exhale — even when they are in perfect tune and even when their combustion is nearly 100 percent complete (which has yet to be achieved and may never be achieved).
If the U.S. follows the Euro example and the EPA obtains the power to regulate carbon dioxide as an exhaust emission, it will mean big things.
Or rather, small things.
And more controlled things.
There will be few, if any, V8s or even six-cylinder engines. They will be regulated out of existence — or made very expensive, as via new C02 taxes (with current “gas guzzler” taxes serving as the role model). On account of there’s no way to reduce the C02 “emissions” of a big V8 or six. The only option is to tax them so as to reduce their number by negative economic inducements.
The other option is to make a lot of really small engines — like they do in Europe already. Little engines burn less fuel — and so emit a lesser volume of exhaust gasses. But the rub is that smaller cars are — here it comes! — less “safe.” That is, less able to comply with the M1 Abrams Tank Standards in effect in the U.S.
Which is why those really small (and very fuel-efficient) Euro cars are not available here.
It’ll be Catch-22 time.
Small cars emit less C02, but they are not “safe.” So we can’t have them — but we also can’t have “safe” cars that have bigger engines (to haul the weight that makes them “safe”) because they emit too much climate change-causing carbon dioxide.
They’ve got us coming — and going — and that’s probably just what’s wanted.
To drive us out of our cars.
VW is merely the first casualty in a war that’s about to go full hot.
Better buckle up.
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