Cars, trucks, and basically everything else that burns fossil fuels on our roads and waterways are bad for the environment. It’s an immutable fact of life that has just become so obvious to everyone. Modern life, however, would not exist without these machines, therefore we as a society turn a blind eye to what’s happening in order to continue indulging in the conveniences to which we’ve become accustomed. Although automobiles don’t do much to help Mother Earth, governments and automakers around the globe are trying their best to get the greenhouses released from cars under control. (photo courtesy of EPA.gov)
In the United States, legislation titled “the Clean Air Act” (1970) sets air quality standards for the states in order to enhance and protect the quality of life for citizens. Automakers must design vehicles which abide by these standards in order to be sold and driven in the United States.
In 2016, however, it came to light that one of the largest automakers in the world was lying to governments and consumers about emissions on their vehicles violating the Clean Air Act, and it wasn’t even for the first time. Volkswagen, a German car company, was caught using a “defeat device” which provides bogus data on emission readings when activated. In 1973, Volkswagen admitted to using similar devices on thousands of the classic VW Bug models (independent.co.uk). However, this time the company lied on a much larger, much more expensive scale requiring a lot of technological work.
Volkswagen produced around 600,000 “clean diesel” vehicles outfitted with defeat devices to lie about how clean the emissions from these diesel cars actually were. This had the potential for the company to be fined upwards of $18 billion (forbes.com). However, as cited in the Forbes.com article, greenwashing (where companies lie about how environmentally friendly their product is, such as this example with Volkswagen) is often not caught by the US government, which is disheartening.
My family owns, and still drives on a daily basis, one of these deceitful diesel vehicles produced by Volkswagen. As consumers, my parents would not have purchased this vehicle knowing the damage it actually causes. Hopefully the lawsuit the US filed will cause other companies to learn and be honest with consumers about the impact their products have.