Dieselgate kills 5,000 Europeans per year

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/09/18/corporate-impunity.html


And traffic accidents claims 85000 people per year in Europe (which is much less than in other countries, actually).


Dieselgate kills 5,000 Europeans per year

Seems legit.


I’m not sure if your comment should make me feel better or worse about people unnecessarily dying due to intentional fraud committed by car companies.

I don’t think I could commit crimes at that level. I might be able to murder some really hateful person if it would make me rich. Maybe - I’ve never tried. But this level of unethical behavior? Mass poisoning of populations done knowingly for corporate profit? Seems logical that the perpetrators deserve far harsher treatment than society accords to murderers, given the greater scope and greater immorality of Dieselgate.


…and, according to WHO 1,250,000 people die annually in road accidents world-wide.
…and, somewhere between 20,000,000 - 50,000,000 people are injured annually in road accidents world-wide.
that’s about one Canada worth of non-fatal injuries every year, and one province of Saskatchewan is killed.

Not trying to excuse or distract from the core issue, but just look at the contribution from shipping, too. The Dover/Calais bottleneck in the English Channel looks worse than the city of Birmingham, and drastically worse than Edinburgh/Glasgow.

And why is SW Poland so bad? Warszawa’s a hot spot too, but nothing like the SW.


So your claim is that car manufacturers deliberately disabling air pollution controls (despite decades of research showing air pollution to be a severe health hazard) is somehow equivalent to traffic accidents? Do you believe deaths in traffic accidents are all deliberate? Shall we rename them to “traffic murder?”


My comment was just about context. Cars kill in many ways.

I have no idea about SW Poland, maybe they have mines or power plants there? But thank you for the comment about the Channel.

Edit: Bingo (SW Poland).


I can recognize a straw man argument when I see one, you know.

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The following site will show you the situation of pollutants like CO and SO2 all over the planet as well as winds, rains, etc:


It is quite interesting.

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Dieselgate was deliberate.
Traffic accidents tend not to be deliberate.
This is like comparing apples to oranges.


Hey, I can see my city on that sattlite image!
So yay…?

Here’s the problem with that statement. In Dieselgate and other instances like it, corporations deliberately hid something from the world which led to deaths. It wasn’t an accident. When you start a thread by comparing it to actual accidents, it comes off as minimizing the crime by comparing it to accidents. Maybe that wasn’t your intention. Maybe you’re trying to point to the acceptance of auto related deaths writ large. But that’s not how it comes across. You initial comment came across as derailing. Then you accused @KXKVI of committing a fallacy they didn’t commit. They asked you a question instead of assuming you’re an apologist or shill. All you had to do was answer it. Instead you dismissed their question by characterizing it as an attack on an argument you claim not to have made. It wasn’t an attack. It was a question because your initial comment wasn’t clear.


The study doesn’t say that at all. They estimate that about 4500 premature deaths are attributable to excess diesel emissions from all manufacturers:

In this study, we analyse the consequences of excess NOx emissions from the whole fleet of LDDVs (and not just a single brand) across all of Europe.

(They do, however, reference a study that attempted to quantify deaths directly related to excess VW diesel emissions.)

These ‘excess emissions’ are the difference between the emissions under test conditions, and the emissions in real-world driving. The real point is that diesel engines from all manufacturers are much more polluting in real-life than their test results would indicate; far more so than petrol engines.

Their estimate is 2021:

Excess premature deaths will continue into the future until LDDVs with high on-road NOx emissions have been replaced, possibly from 2021 and onwards when the final stage of the Euro 6 legislation is intended to close the gap between the test cycle and on-road emissions.


Serious question: In your view, is VW no more culpable than diesel manufactures who don’t intentionally defraud regulators?


My opinion (for what it’s worth) is that yes, they are more culpable, but that the excess emissions directly related to their defeat devices are probably not as significant as is being made out. The patched VW engines will still be emitting much more NOx than the test cycle would imply (same as for all other manufacturers).

It’s even more complicated when you consider that the defeat devices enabled their vehicles to achieve higher fuel economy, hence lower CO2 emissions- how many deaths can be attributed to climate change?

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Did Volkswagen commit a crime? Absolutely. But I believe that people use this to excuse themselves from doing something about polluting with their non-diesel cars.

Wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t curious. I appreciate the honest and considered answer.

I agree with the basic thrust of your argument. But I still think Dieselgate has a particular significance because it shows auto manufactures are willing and prepared to defraud regulators for profit. That means regulations alone aren’t going to help if we as a society don’t severely punish the companies that flaunt them. The survival of VW bodes ill for climate change regulation enforcement. IMO, VW must be bankrupted.


I don’t think that @KXKVI really asked a “question” and the post certainly reads to me like a straw man argument.

But since your post is polite and reasonably argued, I am glad to answer it. I certainly agree that VW did something irresponsible. But the article (which has been all over the press in Europe for days, so that I have had ample time to do some research) is not exactly honest. Let me summarize:

  • the figure of 5000 people is out of context. Put in context, it is actually a rather small number, which means that it is difficult to really link these deaths to one particular type of pollution (NOx). It represents all types of NOx related deaths, not just VW and not just depolluted diesel cars.
  • VW did not actually break the law in Europe (in North America yes), the law was somewhat easy to circumvent. Why? Because it made it easier for car producers to meet their CO2 targets. Everybody is guilty: all car makers, politicians who designed the laws to allow to meet the CO2 targets “easily” and drivers who bought large SUV and new they would not meet their mileage figures yet only cared about tax breaks. That cars did not follow the rules have been an open secret for years.
  • as far as combustion engines go, Diesel still has the highest efficiency, which is good for CO2 emissions (and bad for oil producers), especially for large vehicles. It can be made clean, at the cost of higher “ad blue” (urea) consumption and reduced driving pleasure. We do that for lorries, which still run diesel.
  • recent, direct injection, petrol engines cause other problems (with particulates), expect that “scandal” to meet the press next year.

In a nutshell the problem is complex and the oversimplification of a single figure under a heading “VW killed thousands” is, quite simply, propaganda. Not that I am defending VW, mind you. They are guilty. But we should not forget the others.

And: just in case you wonder, I do own a car (petrol, small, about 5l/100km or 45 mpg, not VW), even if I don’t use very often.