January 13, 2016
It was recently announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to charge Volkswagen Auto Group (VW AG) up to $50 Billion to compensate for their diesel emissions disaster. Obviously, that is only a theoretical maximum; it is improbable that the EPA (or the US Attorney General for that matter) is going to pursue mulct of that magnitude. If a punishment of that proportion were placed over Volkswagen’s head, the next generation of VW AG (and Germany) might be bankrupt. BP had a similar projected penalty before settling down to $20 Billion. Personally, I believe that amount ($21 Billion) is a fair fine for VW AG , but far too little for BP. The reason behind the distinction being the actual wounds wrought by each catastrophe. BP might have irreversibly damaged the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem with the spill itself, then further propagated the pollution (and in turn the devastation) by spraying Corexit on top. There is no debate on whether or not Corexit is bad for humans (it is), even the EPA agrees, but so is oil. The problem is that when the substances mix, they bring out the worst of one another. Some publications claim that when the substances mix they become 52 times worse. That is like dipping a cigarette in cyanide. Literally, while making amends for their ecological catastrophe (or rather to hide their mess by sinking it into the ocean), BP further crippled the ecosystem while rewarding those donated their time and effort to cleaning the gulf by mangling their lungs and central nervous system. The workers who used the same substance to clean after Exxon-Valdez were peeing black… I am not a doctor, but that does not sounds unhealthy. BP claims that while Corexit is toxic one cannot prove that any workers or wildlife were exposed to it… because, duh. Volkswagen’s actions were more morally remiss than inherently harmful. Under the most recent assessment’s worst case scenario, 150 premature deaths could be directly linked to 2.0 Litre Turbo Diesel Injected (TDI) engines. Which, is horrible, but compared to instantly killing 11 people in an explosion, then not allowing the 48,000 people cleaning up after to use respirators; the EPA is tackling second hand-smoke. There could potentially be as little as 10 premature deaths, because in order for NOx emissions to be lethal (long-term) they would have to be more concentrated. In other words, spraying Cyanide around is a really bad idea, but in a well ventilated the damage would be minimal. However, instead of spraying more poison like BP did, Volkswagen will be providing a next generation Electric Vehicle (EV) platform, or Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB (the Acronym is based on the German words)), which the EPA has to admit should count for something. I understand that the punishment for Volkswagen should be severe, so no one else decides to play it fast and loose (some already are), but the real deterrent should be stringent checks by the EPA. Because as things stand, the EPA seems to be eating the cake they already have. They do not actually do any inspections (3rd parties do that (reputable ones or otherwise), then send them in to be rubber stamped by the EPA), yet the government agency gets billions in fines. Use that money to Protect the Environment.