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Diesel Disaster
“Green” Policy Choking the Life out of Europeans

And we mean that literally. Many of Europe’s cars are diesel-powered, and when these vehicles aren’t making international headlines for cheating auto emissions testing, they’re busy belching toxic fumes into the air above the continent’s biggest cities. As the Washington Post reports, this sort of air pollution is taking years off the lives of tens of thousands of Londoners:

[London’s] overreliance on diesel-powered vehicles has given it a dubious distinction: a global leader in nitrogen dioxide, a particularly noxious pollutant that shortens the lives of thousands of Londoners a year.

Here and in cities across environmentally minded Europe, NO2 levels are substantially higher than in North America, or even in Asian and African megacities whose names have become bywords for dirty air. And that is all because of decades of government incentives designed to spur the purchase of supposedly cleaner diesel cars and trucks.

“It’s a complete policy failure,” said Gary Fuller, who directs an air-quality-study center at King’s College London. “No one could defend this.”

The diesel debate revolves around two metrics: mileage, and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions. Diesel tends to get higher mileage while emitting more NOx which, as Europe is currently experiencing, leads to increased local air pollution. It’s a trade-off between two important but distinct environmental concerns, but consensus seems to be coalescing around a simple fact: diesel cars, especially in urban areas, do more harm than good.

That’s why the mayors of Paris, Athens, Madrid, and Mexico City have all committed to plan to phase out diesel-powered cars over the next ten years. Conversely, here in the United States, our urban air tends to be a lot cleaner than what Europe’s—and Asia’s, for that matter—city dwellers are breathing in.

Green-minded Europe worries constantly about the future of humanity on this planet, but those environmentalists wringing their hands and jumping at any and every chance to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions might not have to worry about the apocalyptic future they insist is nigh: The smog could get them first.

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  • f1b0nacc1

    Hayek smiles…

    • Andrew Allison
      • f1b0nacc1

        Indeed so. You will remember that I supported him only because of the SCOTUS appointment and the likelihood that he wouldn’t do much more damage than HRC would. Well, he hasn’t even been inaugurated yet, and he has already far exceeded my most optimistic expectations. Replacing even SOME of the F-35s with upgraded F-18s would be an enormous bonus, if he could get the F-22 production line restarted, that would be better still.

        Heck, just watching the Left melt down has been more than enough fun! Every time I read one of FG’s bitter screeds, I smile….

        • Andrew Allison

          I seem to recall that he was, in your mind, the lesser of two evils [grin] I really don’t care what FG has to say, but I’m quite concerned about the broader issue of the concerted, deliberate and utterly mendacious effort by the left (aided and abetted, as usual, by the MSM) to de-legitimize the result of a free and fair election. Not content with setting back race relations by 50 years, they’re now going full fascist.

          • f1b0nacc1

            I share your concerns, but I suspect that it isn’t going to be too much of an issue. Trump isn’t the sort of cares very much about being granted ‘legitimacy’, and the thus is going to follow whatever course he decides to with or without the approval of our betters. More to the point, however, the delightful behavior of the Lefties is going to delegitimize them a whole lot more than it will harm Trump, a man I rather think is far past the notion of any sort of shame.

            In any event, we will see…

            Merry Christmas my friend….

          • Andrew Allison

            And to you!

          • f1b0nacc1

            And, as the sun goes down….a Happy Hanukkah!

  • Andrew Allison

    Surely the first question to ask is whether all those diesel vehicles are meeting their emission standards. Given the spreading emissions cheating scandal, I suspect that the answer is no. If, in fact, the problem is emissions cheating rather than diesel engines per se, the argument made in the post falls flat.

  • In this article’s assumptions concerning the higher density of NO2 in Europe than in the USA, it should consider population density. For the European Union, there are 510 million people occupying 4.3 million sq km. For the USA (ignoring any special allowance for the separated Alaska), there are 324 million people occupying 9.8 million sq km. Thus the population density of the EU is 3.6 times higher than that of the USA.

    I am not saying AI is wrong to criticise the EU on its (historical) vehicle fuel policy. However it gives me little confidence in AI’s case if there is no mention of such a gross difference in population density – and its implications.

    I also am highly suspicious that a car fuel policy in terms of NOx emissions per unit distance driven is as helpful as might be. It would be far better to have a policy in terms of NOx emissions per litre/gallon of fuel consumed. In that way, there would not be such an unhelpful bias against larger cars (that necessarily have heavier fuel consumption – irrespective of which fuel type is used). With such government game-playing with regulatory bias (in both the EU and the USA), is it really a surprise that motor manufacturers (including many beyond the VW group) also played games.

    Interestingly, EU regulations for trucks and buses are specified in terms of grammes/kWh – so being effectively fuel usage related rather than distance related.

    With emission levels set per litre/gallon of fuel burned, one could apply the same or similar levels of regulation to trucks/buses as well as to all motor cars. Smaller cars (of which there are a great many) also would then need to have NOx cleaning of a similar quality and proportionate effectiveness as for larger cars – leading to further reductions in pollution levels.

    Best regards

    • Kevin

      The US population is concentrated in higher density eastern cities and western cities often surrounded by mountains which trap air poluarion.

      • Andrew Allison

        Which has what, exactly, to do with the life being choked out of Europeans?

    • Frank Natoli

      It was understood as early as 1970 that high compression / high combustion chamber temperature engines generated high levels of NO and NO2 because that is the context where triple bonded N2 dissociates. For a long time, U.S. engines were low compression. In time, technology permitted a restoration to high compression but diesels, with their very high compression spark-less ignition, can never eliminate NO and NO2.

      • Andrew Allison

        Since you appear to know something about this, don’t 3-way catalytic converters reduce NOx for light duty diesel engines? Or are they not in widespread use? Could they be, and would retrofitting work.

        • Frank Natoli

          The role of catalytic converters in ordinary automotive use is to complete partial combustion, e.g., CO to CO2. But NOx is already the result of combustion. I am not aware of any catalytic converter that facilitates an endothermic reducing reaction. Where would the energy to do that come from?

    • Andrew Allison

      With respect, I think you missed the point. It doesn’t matter why NOx levels are at poisonous levels in European cities, just that they are.

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