EPA to begin more rigorous testing of all diesel cars after VW scandal

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that it will launch sweeping changes to the way it tests for diesel emissions after getting duped by clandestine software in Volkswagen cars for seven years.

The world’s second largest automaker had a choice: Produce an efficient, cleaner diesel engine for 482,000 vehicles sold in the U.S., or just pretend that you did and reap billions for the charade.The software senses when a vehicle is undergoing emissions tests and reduces the pollutants being released, but when driven, the EPA would see it run 10 to 40 times above acceptable levels. “This was so clearly a deliberate act by executives at Volkswagen that there needs to be criminal penalties,” said Clarence Diltow, who runs the Center for Auto Safety. “They wrote a software code that could detect steering wheel movement,” said attorney Bob Hilliard. “It the steering wheel wasn’t moving, they kicked in their emissions standards meeting control system.” “If you take 11 million vehicles over the course of eight years and do the math on their exposure to folks around the world,” he said, “the health effects are tremendous.” Many of the clients who bought diesel thinking they were doing the environment a favor were actually unwittingly coconspirators to a big pollution and cancer causing scandal. The German automaker this week admitted that 11 million of its diesel cars sold globally are outfitted with software that skirts emissions regulations. In a letter to car manufacturers, the EPA said it will add on-road testing to its regimen, “using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device” similar to the one used by Volkswagen. And never mind that minor detail called Clean Air Act and various state regulations, don’t worry if you subject entire populations to more asthma attacks, more respiratory illnesses, and even death.

Yes, there is a special corner of corporate hell awaiting some people at Volkswagen, whose audacity is a shock to the moral senses, even as we grow numb to the avalanche of scandals in recent years. Like, ever. “The Volkswagen violations before us now make it clear, we need to adapt and step up our oversight,” Janet McCabe, acting administrator in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said during a press conference.

Now it’s up to the Department of Justice to hit them as hard as they deserve, while hopefully issuing a reminder to the pro-business crowd that EPA regulations are enforced for a good reason. The overall economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.9 percent in the April-June quarter, up from a previous estimate of 3.7 percent, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Such testing can be expected in addition to the standard emissions test cycles when Emissions Data Vehicles (EDV), and Fuel Economy Data Vehicles (FEDV) are tested by EPA.” TL;DR? The agency did not specify how it would actually do that, given that these devices are really just lines of computer code scattered through the 10 million or so that modern vehicles require to operate.

The agency is using random spot checks of production cars to make sure that automakers are being honest and to detect any other rule-breaking technology, like VW’s sneaky emissions software that tested clean in a lab but ran dirtier in real-world conditions. The second quarter expansion in the gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, was a marked improvement from an anemic 0.6 percent increase in the first quarter when the economy was battered by a harsh winter. There are also class action lawsuits from angry car owners who paid a premium for cars that were advertised as being good for the environment. “Given the depths of the VW deception, the EPA really doesn’t have any other choice but to step up their tailpipe testing,” said Keith Stewart, who leads Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaign.

The issue heated up this week on news that Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim, the only approved treatment for a rare, life-threatening parasitic infection, by more than 5,000 percent to $750 a pill. It estimated that a half-million vehicles added somewhere between 3,000 and 12,000 additional tons of nitrogen oxide pollution to our environment each year, assuming each car averaged 12,000 miles.

Reuters points out a tweet posted Thursday by Italian Transport Minister Graziano Delrio stating there will be 1,000 sample checks for all automakers selling vehicles in Italy. From 2008 through 2014, average prices for the most widely used brand-name drugs jumped 128 percent, according to prescription benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Co. Almost all of these platforms are currently being used to test big rigs and other heavy duty vehicles for NOx emissions — even though these heavier vehicles actually account for 98 percent of nitric-oxide emissions. The agency declined to be more specific. “They don’t need to know,” Grundler said on a conference call with reporters. “They only need to know that we will be keeping their cars a little bit longer, and we’re going to be driving them more.” Currently, the U.S. and Canadian governments test and certify some new car models as they enter the country.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — For a change, Silicon Valley is buzzing about something besides a sleek new device, mind-bending breakthrough or precocious billionaire. Upshot: Using EPA calculations on how NOx emission levels affect our health, Bloomberg estimated Volkswagen’s joy ride caused an additional 3 to 23 premature American deaths each year, and as many as 520 more deaths worldwide. But because of budget constraints, they also rely on the automakers’ lab results in some cases, Oliver said Re-testing the cars once they’re on the road has been left up to state and provincial governments. A rare visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this weekend has captivated his extensive fan club in the area and commanded the attention of major U.S. technology companies eager to extend their reach into a promising overseas market.

It will also give Modi, a Hindu nationalist elected to office last year, an opportunity use the world’s high-tech capital as a pulpit to promote his plan to transform India into a hub of innovation. As cars became more sophisticated, relying more on software to monitor performance, emission tests shifted from actual tailpipe emissions to relying on the vehicle’s on board diagnostic (OBD) system. He envisions a “Digital India,” where ubiquitous high-speed Internet access will empower entrepreneurs to build software and other technology products that will raise the standard of living in a country where many households are still impoverished. It took a four-year criminal investigation before Toyota conceded last year that its accelerator pedals jammed, which led to a recall of 10 million vehicles.

In VW’s case, installing what’s called a “defeat device” or special lines of code allowed the car to sense when it was being tested and turn on the appropriate pollution controls. NEW YORK (AP) — As world leaders descend on the United Nations this weekend, former President Bill Clinton will be taking them to East Africa through virtual reality. Clean air laws have succeeded in reducing pollution, especially the kind of ground level smog associated with nitrogen oxide emissions, environmentalists said. “In 2005, in Toronto, the province issued upwards of 50 smog alerts. You’ll get to keep your current user name (as long as it doesn’t contain invalid characters, in which case you’ll have to go through a few extra steps to make the transfer), and all your old comments will eventually (not immediately) migrate with you.

It isn’t like Volkswagen planned for brakes to fail or airbags to explode, but this is right out of Big Tobacco’s playbook: push the product, conceal the dangers, and treat human lungs as collateral damage. You feel as though you’re sitting in the same living room as Clinton chats with an entrepreneur in Karatu, Tanzania, who sells solar-powered products. But we shouldn’t forget that smart engineers designed a cheating machine to deceive on a global level, knowing the science would kill people – and justice must be done. California, which has extremely tough pollution laws, has seen a 60 per cent reduction in pollutants over the same time period, according to the California Air Resources Board’s annual almanac. Richard Curtin, chief economist for the survey, said consumers are disturbed by signs of trouble in the Chinese economy, the world’s second-biggest, and continued economic stress in Europe.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — ConAgra employees will learn next week about upcoming changes that the company’s chief executive said Friday likely will include jobs cuts and a shuffling of operations that could boost the company’s presence in Chicago and lower it in Omaha. RIDGEVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Volvo has broken ground on its first auto manufacturing plant in North America, and says workers at the $500 million plant will build a car still being designed in Sweden. Even the out-of-it others say they stumble on news while they’re catching up with friends on Facebook, scanning their Twitter feeds or looking for entertainment online.

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