The U.S. EPA caught Volkswagen cheating red-handed almost exactly one year ago, and in the fallout of that initial accusation the world was taken aback by just how brazen the malfeasance was—engineers deliberately installed software that would run the engine differently when it detected that the vehicle was being driven in a testing situation, so as to keep tailpipe emissions artificially lower than they would in typical road conditions.
But perhaps onlookers shouldn’t have been so surprised. After all, Europe has a history with questionable practices on the part of automakers and lax regulatory oversight. This week, a top American regulator acknowledged that the EU’s inadequate car testing has been common knowledge for decades.
“The European test cycle has been acknowledged quite broadly since the 1990s to be inadequate,” Grundler, director of the EPA’s transportation and air quality office, said in a written answer to lawmakers’ questions. “Our experience has been that a comprehensive approach is required that means testing vehicles in use as well as having the authority to then follow through enforcement actions.” […]
“It is not enough to have sound standards and sound test procedures,” he told lawmakers. “How they are implemented in practice and the market surveillance aspects are also very, very important … that is the main challenge.”
Europe has fashioned itself as an eco-friendly paradise, but on closer examination much of that environmental marketing turns out to be merely green lipstick on a pig. It has fostered an environment in which automakers are able to essentially forge emissions ratings, duping a trusting public into thinking that the cars they are buying are actually saving the planet.
The market for “green” products is large and growing thanks in large part to widening concern over climate change. People are willing to shell out big bucks to signal their green virtue, but it’s incumbent on regulators to make sure the products being packaged as earth-saving are actually that. Eco-mania has gripped Europe stronger than any other region on the planet, but simply calling something green doesn’t make it so.