Carbon dioxide and pollution


The VW clever computers helped engines pass the US exhaust tests. Now VW has apologised and thought better of such intelligent engineering, recognising that passing the tests was only meant to be an indicator of how  a vehicle would  perform when being driven on normal roads.

This tussle between manufacturer and regulator is one of many that occur when regulators demand certain performance, and when there are varying ways of conforming to the letter of the law. Many think companies should observe the sprit of the test and rules. Others blame the regulator for failing to invent a test which measures what they are really interested in.

This one, however, matters more than many for two big reasons. The first is VW is one of the world’s two largest motor manufacturers, accounting for more than 10 m vehicles out of a total world production of 90 million last year. VW exhausts have quite an impact on the world. The second is the output from car exhausts is of more concern to green groups than  practically any other source of carbon dioxide and pollutants, as green lobbyists are especially critical of personal transport whilst being less angry about home systems for heating ,cooking and washing that also use energy and produce pollutants.

The origins of this current controversy lie in the growing success of the global warming movement in the 1990s. They made regulators and lawmakers concentrate on carbon dioxide rather than pollutants. The diesel industry came up with good ways of cutting carbon dioxide output from vehicle engines, and in the process offered the motorist something he or she wanted – greater fuel efficiency. When I switched from petrol to diesel I gained more than a third in fuel economy from the switch. It was known at the time that older or dirtier diesels produced more pollutants including particulates, NOx and SOx. The Regulators set ever tougher standards to cut down these adverse side effects of going for the more fuel efficient diesel. The industry responded with much cleaner diesel engines.

Today the EU, governments and regulators have some explaining to do.  Did they do enough when they adopted aggressive carbon dioxide targets to police pollutants from engines? Did they set the right tests to make sure the vehicles performed as they needed? Can they now assure us they have in place the right tests, so when we buy a modern diesel we know for sure that it does achieve the high standards we expect in reducing or eliminating pollutants out of the back? And have they also set the right tests and made the right demands of petrol engines?

During this debate it might also be a good idea to look at domestic heating boilers and systems, and to remember just how much pollution still comes out of our power stations. Its total pollution which matters most. Regulators need to get a grip, and to see the volumes in proportion to the totals.



  1. Rita Webb (Mrs)
    September 26, 2015

    Scientists keep popping up at the moment warning that diesel cars should be banned from city centres “to keep pollution levels down”. Sorry but in my experience they need to open their eyes to the fact that it is diesel buses that are probably the main culprit. They already have the data that shows Percy St in Newcastle (home to the Haymarket bus station) is one of the most polluted streets in the UK. This is more muddled up thinking that also gave the great idea that bus lanes reduce congestion too. No bus lanes do not, they clog up the traffic that are not allowed into them. While on the rest of the road network, outside of the rush hour, buses are usually empty as they pass by belching out their fumes.

    On an EU bashing point too. Do we rigorously check all those East European lorries on our motorways for dodgy emissions (let alone to see if they are road worthy)? The Germans seem to like to keep an eye on them on their autobahns but we seem to let them pass by without any let or hinderance. NB I was paying 70p a litre for diesel in Poland a couple of weeks ago. JR perhaps you could explain why British industry has to put up with this unnecessary handicap with it being around £1.10 here?

    1. Dan H.
      September 28, 2015

      What is going on here is very, very telling indeed and mostly extremely unflattering for the EU test regime. VW’s engineers discovered that whilst making their engines extremely clean was possible, doing so normally was impossible. However the EU testing regime is so unlike normal driving that it is possible to make the ECU spot this regimen and alter the ECU programing so that the car runs a lot cleaner, albeit at grossly reduced performance.

      I repeat, the EU testing regime can trivially be distinguished from normal driving by the car’s Engine Control Unit, JUST from the driving style.

      Therefore the EU test regime is not at all representative of normal driving, and can never be expected to give accurate accounting of how a vehicle performs under normal conditions.

      It is however possible to make a diesel engine that is powerful, clean and emits very little nitrogen oxides, but the catch is that it uses much more of a mixture trademarked as Adblue. This is simply urea dissolved in ultrapure water, and it is injected into the exhaust gas upstream of a catalytic converter, which reacts urea with nitrous oxides to produce water and nitrogen. All modern HGVs have this system, and quite a few of the bigger diesel cars do, too.

      What is going on here is a battle about convenience. The car manufacturers want their vehicles to use as little Adblue as possible, so one tankful will last from service interval to service interval. This lets them put the tank somewhere awkward to get to, because only the poor old service techie is going to be putting in Adblue. If on the other hand enough adblue to completely comply with the Euro-6 regulations under normal conditions is used, the tank either needs to be bigger, or the access to it much easier as more Adblue will be used.

      A final thing also needs to happen: random roadside vehicle testing. It is quite common these days for private hire vehicles to run on diesel, and because local low-speed driving tends to bung up the particle trap filters in the exhaust quite a few operators illegally have these filters/catalysts removed after each MOT, then replaced just before the MOT. This means that most of the time, a dirty diesel exhaust is being produced, and thus roadside testing is needed to spot and remove these vehicles.

      1. stred
        September 30, 2015

        This Adblue is rather expensive. Looking up the cost, I came across a firm (Ecuflash) which is offering to reprogramme trucks, so that the Adblue programme is disabled and this will not be picked up in MOT tests. They say that Adblue manufacture uses a lot of energy from natural gas and reduces fuel efficiency. If it is not pure and the system is not full, the computer and sensors puts the truck into limp mode. Clearly, the system does the opposite of what the anti CO2 brigade wish to achieve.Thankfully, we didn’t buy the latest diesel and have old ones with particulate filters that are working.

    September 26, 2015

    Another debate is whether Man ever really can do anything over and above or different from his DNA matrixed natural programming within Nature. An over-productive, over-expansive animal falls victim to his own success and depletes his food and water resources until they in turn deplete his numbers to bring him back into balance.

    VW stock price was declining a little before its present abrupt downturn. China, a big market for VW, ever-expanding had run out of steam. Brazil too, another VW base for German empire building has met with the economic, industrial and numerical might of its North American predator neighbour.

    Capitalism and Globalism, the philosophy and politics of an over-ambitious ant never content with just the one fully functional anthill, is unintentionally cutting emissions of pollutants by economic “sluggishness” and “downturn” whilst his pinprick sized brain argues the toss of should-he-shouldn’t-he stop poisoning himself off the planet.

    1. NickC
      September 27, 2015

      Christopher Houston, You may not realise this but socialism once promised materialism to the working man (the “equality” of capital and labour). When socialism failed to deliver the material cornucopia, instead of accepting the failure of socialism, the socialists invented the concept of sneering at materialism.

      This is the position that Mr Corbyn and his followers have reached. It looks like you are there too.

  3. Lifelogic
    September 26, 2015

    All you say is true, but it is clearly mainly the regulators who are to blame for designing a silly tests. VW just went a rather too far in designing a car to pass it while working well on real roads too. I am not sure VW did even cheat, it was just dealing with the idiotic system that pertained. It does seems they did rather push the envelope to destruction.

    The engineers/politicians/regulators designing these tests much surely have been incompetent not to realise they the engines would then be designed to pass these artificial tests, rather than designed to run efficiently well on real roads. Using the software in this way is the obvious thing to do given the system. Perhaps even the only way to beat the test and run well in real life. The test engineers must surely have known. just from the difference in the test and the average consumption in daily use. It surely should have been fairly obvious and any competent engineer who looked and thought?

    1. Lifelogic
      September 26, 2015

      There is of course a parallel in UK taxation, with Osborne’s idiotic and highly damaging GAAR. Unwilling to set sensible tax laws and rates they invent a highly damaging General Anti Abuse Rule (GAAR). This, since no one now knows how HMRC will now decide the liability, hugely puts of investors in some activities destroying jobs and exporting industries. An idiotic Mugabe tax, you pay what we tell you after the fact. The government will decided after the fact if you avoidance was morally repugnant. It is GAAR that is morally repugnant and hugely damaging.

    2. Lifelogic
      September 26, 2015

      These fuel tests mean we get silly often less reliable (due to over complexity) new cars (often even without a spare wheel), all just to past these very poorly designed tests.

      I shall stick with my ancient Volvo Estates and the VW cabriolet. Thus saving all the energy and pollution from building new cars.

      All these tests, and yet people are still allowed buy many cars with 6+ litre engines and burn as much fuel as they like (without even much tax) in their home house boilers. As usual we are governed by total fools. The parasitic lawyers and bureaucrats will be the winners once again, everyone else will pay.

  4. DaveM
    September 26, 2015

    My sister – as head of PR for VW UK (Commercial) – assures me that at least 5 people were genuinely concerned about the emissions ‘scandal’ with regards to environmental effects.

    However, when there was a suggestion that there could be compensation for people who had bought cars affected by the cheating software, her phone exploded.

  5. Denis Cooper
    September 26, 2015

    “Its total pollution which matters most”, and CO2 should not be included in that.

  6. Mick Anderson
    September 26, 2015

    Any design has compromise in it, and many of these compromises are forced on car design by legislation. The “unclean” stick is a very easy one to beat car manufacturers with. I certainly include those who make electric vehicles because of the exotic chemicals that are needed to manufacture the relatively short-lived and horribly expensive batteries.

    People who design and develop cars want them to be enjoyed. No matter how poor you might think the finished product happens to be, somewhere there will be a design team that is proud of their “baby”.

    Emissions and fuel consumption testing must (by definition) be standardised in order to compare vehicles that are very dissimilar, but you are on a hiding to nothing if you chose a vehicle based on published figures. I see different results from my own car on the same day, just from my own changes of mood. Keep your car serviced properly to make sure that the filters and oils are working as well as possible. You will also find that if you drive a car that is underpowered for what you ask of it (for example a tiny-engined car loaded with four adults) then it will be far more polluting (in absolute terms) than a bigger engined car that is capable of doing the job comfortably.

    There is far more improvement in emissions (gasses, pollutants, noise) to be gained by keeping traffic moving at an even pace than can ever be achieved by legislating to force insipid, uninspiring engines on people. Removing a set of traffic lights at a busy crossing in favour of a pedestrian underpass will improve the environment far more than adding DPFs and catalytic convertors. The key is in efficiency – braking and restarting is very inefficient because no matter how many clever ERS toys are put on a vehicle, you’re always working against the laws of thermodynamics. Use the vehicle momentum instead; take advantage of the laws of physics.

    So I’m with VW on this one, especially the engineers. I’m glad that the engineers who developed the ECU cared enough about what the car was like to drive to find a way around the politically-demanded strait jacket. If my Audi had this “defeat” firmware (it’s too old) I would certainly not want the dealer to re-flash the ECU with the politically correct firmware version.

  7. stred
    September 26, 2015

    t is not only diesel car performance which is fiddled but petrol too. Even hybrids publish economy figures which are nowhere near actual. As you say other forms of combustion also produce nitrogen dioxide and the concentration is important when considering health. Has anyone tested nox concentrations in rooms with gas rings?

    When the diesel car pollution in London was raised this year, as I have 3 diesels for work and personal use, I had a look at the ‘clean air for London’ ? website and through their information and links to statistics and found the ministry site, where it is possible to see NO2 and particulate concentrations across the country. The first thing noticeable was that the places where the EU limits were exceeded were at roadsides in central parts of cities, not only London but places like Inverness. In London the high pollution spots were where there are many buses and taxis often travelling slowly. The other bad spots were the M25 where cars, vans and lorries are frequently in jams.

    But the most surprising thing was that the health statistics had not come from any specific linking of various diseases to pollutants, but from guessed estimates based on populations and numbers of vehicles etc The only information I could find specifically linking lung disease to diesel was a Canadian study of truck drivers and this was done before particulate filters were introduced. There seems to be no study separating Nox from Particulates here, despite filters being introduced and cleaner engines since around 10 years ago. Most surprising was that, over the last 10 years, overall death rate from lung and heart disease had declined- not increased and London was no worse than less polluted areas. The oddest part of the statistics was the tendency to link any disease to car pollution in any are of London. For instance in Tower Hamlets heart disease was up. In others Alzheimers was up in women, but not men. Ihappen to know from contacts that the reason for the increase in dementia is that we are living longer and it is greater in women because they live longer than men. How about diet being responsible in Tower Hamlet?

    From the recent VW scare, anyone might believe that NO2 is a gas as poisonous as chlorine, but until the 60s laughing gas was used as an anaesthetic and some footballers still sniff it. Before we rush to ban everything it would be useful, for instance, to do some studies linking drivers in highly polluted areas to actual deaths compeared to the general population.Foe example, are London taxi drivers actually more likely to contract lung and heart disease and is pollution the reason?

  8. Antisthenes
    September 26, 2015

    There is no doubt that human activity is having an effect on the environment. Even the most sceptical of climate change can deny that we are polluting the planet the evidence for that is all around us in plain sight or if unseen quite easy to measure. However climate warming or climate change(or which ever new wording they use to cover up their mistaken predictions) is another matter it is not as settled as the alarmists would lead us to believe and until it is beyond reasonable doubt we should largely ignore the eco loons.

    As you point out too many of those who have the power to influence what legislation is enacted to redress human activity’s effect on the environment have listened to eco loons and now we are expending wastefully billions on cures to problems that may or may not happen decades even longer in the future.

    Those wasted billions would be better spent on tackling pollution none of which I can ascertain are due to the emission of CO2 and other such like gases. Of course investigation into climate change should continue and new innovative technologies for reducing the emissions of these gases should be sought by a bit of stick and carrot if necessary. Bird mincers and overpriced electricity producing tidal schemes and nuclear power stations are not the answer. There is a place for them but only if they can produce electricity as cheaply as other methods for doing so.

  9. Iain Moore
    September 26, 2015

    If I understand this correctly , the Global Warmists have had Governments cut down on CO2 output, which has resulted on the production of other pollutants. These other pollutants have led to the additional deaths of 5300 people in the UK alone.

    The Global Warmists have pre-empted their own dire warnings and have have started the cull of people with own policies.

  10. agricola
    September 26, 2015

    All very true, but lets give the motoring industry credit for making great strides towards pollutant free motoring. All the Greens do is beat their breasts and produce a lot of hot air. Perhaps we should consider Jeremy Clarkesons contention that the biggest offenders are domestic cows, and find ways of fitting them with catalytic converters, or capturing their gaseous product and feeding it into our fuel grid. What an animal . It could give us milk, fertilizer , and fuel. Not to mention roast beef and something to put on our feet.

    While we chastise the vehicle industry we might consider how they achieve their fuel consumption figures and look for a more realistic/honest result.

  11. David Murfin
    September 26, 2015

    CO2 is a natural component of the atmosphere, present in small quantities compared to the main components, but the main source of the carbon needed for plants to grow. Emissions of CO2 from cars affect the balance of the atmosphere and are thus the proper concern of meteorologists, earth scientists and biologists.
    NOx, SOx and other gases emitted are naturally present in tiny proportions, if at all. They are genuine pollutants (particularly in large cities with heavy traffic), cause illnesses and are the proper concern of health authorities.

  12. oldtimer
    September 26, 2015

    The VW engineers who devised the cheat device were not intelligent at all; they were stupid and, it seems, arrogant enough to think they could get away with it. Furthermore VW built its whole US marketing campaign to promote its diesel cars on the premise of its green technology – now revealed to be false. They will pay dearly for their deception.

    As for the Green Blob, it too has much to answer for. The CAGW hypothesis is built on a house of sand. It has driven expensive non-solutions to a non-problem (man made climate change). The drive for lower CO2 emissions from cars has resulted in sales of diesels rising to c50% of EU car sales; but this has been achieved, as you point out, at the cost of higher NOx and SOx emissions and the health risks they potentially cause (and that definitely is man made). Billions has been spent on re-engineering the car fleet to meet these regulatory demands, ultimately all paid for by the customer.

    The test regimes are arbitrary – they can be nothing less because actual driving circumstances are infinitely variable (speed, acceleration and braking, road conditions, temperatures, gradients and so forth). Manufactures will engineer their cars to meet the defined test conditions; that is unlikely to match actual driving experience. Based on the performance of the Chair of the House of Commens Select Committe for Transport on Newsnight the other evening, I have zero confidence that politicians know what they are talking about when it comes to test regulations.

  13. Mondeo Man
    September 26, 2015

    Is a German VW failing its emissions but built using clean energy in Europe still less polluting than a car manufactured in the Far East using dirty energy ?

    If the delivery of the pollutants is on our streets rather than over Far Eastern factories and towns then isn’t that a sort of justice for Western hypocritical zealotry ?

    I’m sure that German fines and compensations (at lease the EU ones) will be offset in the German dominated EU – possibly by some redistributive tax to help them settle the large number of refugees they’ve taken in on the EU’s behalf.

  14. A.Sedgwick
    September 26, 2015

    A good piece – I have always questioned how diesel engines can be less environmentally dangerous than petrol. Nevertheless I succumbed to the lure of fuel economy and cheaper road tax some years back. By way of some form of mitigation I buy the more expensive version of the fuel, which seems less polutant and supposedly gives better engine efficiency alround. A near neighbour has recently bought a sporty German car and I was amazed to see it was diesel, which seems a contradiction in objectives. As I drive much less these days my next car was going to be petrol engined, this episode confirms my intention.

    1. A different Simon
      September 26, 2015

      Some higher spec diesel starts life as natural gas before being put through a Fisher Tropsch reactor to produce waxes which are then processed into syncrude and syndiesel .

      Shell’s high spec diesel is made in this way at the Pearl plant .

      The process consumes a lot of energy so but the end result is a premium fuel which generates less particulate matter .

      Historically the process only made sense when oil was unavailable . The Germans used Fisher Tropsch to convert syngas from gasifying coal to liquids fuels during WW2 . South Africans used in during Apartheid era oil embargos .

      Shell were using it as a way of arbitraging the difference in price between liquid fuels and natural gas .

      For commercial vehicles , particularly in cities , it’s probably a better idea to use compressed natural gas as the buses in Reading already do – especially if we eventually start producing domestic shale gas

      People have told Boris this until they are blue in the face but rather than a solution which works now but he will only consider a Rolls Royce solution – politicians and their vanity schemes .

      1. Mark
        September 27, 2015

        SASOL are still making diesel this way at Secunda. It’s less profitable at present oil prices, but they aren’t saying they’ll shut it down.

      2. NickC
        September 27, 2015

        Take Boris to Delhi to see cng vehicles in use. Much cleaner than petrol/diesel.

  15. Leslie Singleton
    September 26, 2015

    Dear John, What did Oxygen ever do to you to deserve to be downgraded, meaning of course that it is NOx and SOx not Nox and Sox?

  16. Iain Moore
    September 26, 2015

    I am always surprised how the political right has allowed the left to set the terms of the pollution debate, and in doing so have made it a very narrow debate.

    The pollution debate has never been allowed to be set in the terms of demand, i.e the more people you have the more pollution you have, for this would question the policy of mass immigration.

    British people have an annual per head out put of CO2 of 7.7 tons, so every immigrant the British Government allows to walk across out border adds 7.7 tons of CO2 to our total, or adds the deprivations of the people here to fit them in while cutting our CO2 output by 80%. Last year the Government , with its mass immigration policy, added 2.3 million tons of CO2 to our output. Mass immigration is a very polluting policy. The option that is never put to people is to have a smaller population where we could all drive around in American muscle cars fuelled by rapeseed oil, and not have any effect on the environment what so ever.

    In fact immigrants are even more polluting than indigenous people, for the most polluting act is to build a house . 47% ( yes FORTY SEVEN PERCENT) of our CO2 output is attributed to house building.

    But its not just immigrants who are polluting, it is asylum seekers as well. I heard the Pope made a speech to the US Congress, where he put two arguments forward, that appear to be a contradiction. He went on about Global Warming, but also went on about the US opening its borders to migrants, failing to appreciate that moving a migrant from a low energy consuming developing country to a Western country is a very polluting act, for if you take Syrian asylum seekers with ourselves you are adding 5 tons of CO2 out put per person you transfer.

    PS. In a conversation with a heating engineer servicing my oil fired boiler, I was informed that my not so old boiler is more efficient that the new boilers that come with new pollution control systems. So the new boilers require you to burn up more oil to get the same heat output. I don’t know what the equation balance is but it seems what you win on pollution output you lose on efficiency.

  17. turbo terrier
    September 26, 2015

    Well said John.

    Once you start investigating power stations it plays straight into the hands of the renewable disciples which is fine as long as the subsidies are completely stopped.
    On R4 yesterday the leader of the Climate Change Committee who from his accent was Scottish was slagging off the governments stated agenda to reduce subsidies as it will really hit Scotland. All the time this is happening Redcar Steel Plant goes to the wall.

    I complained to the DECC regarding their nameless, faceless correspondence and got a reply back from? you guessed it the Correspondence Section DECC.

    In reality what they are saying is it will stop in March 2016 but if projects can prove they are in the timescale they will be allowed the subsidies till the original cut off date in 2018. When did stop mean carry on as usual? What a mess no wonder the windfarm developers are crowing about business as usual.

    How many more jobs are going to go as Amber carries out this “death by a 1000 cuts process” it should have been stopped completely on the first week of retaining power. Maybe steel investors might have seen a future in hanging on in there to keep the plants going as would all high energy companies.

    The whole fiasco of pollution has been totally blown out of hand and maybe a properly thought out plan with sensible lead times had more effect than all this scare mongering being put out by scientists and computer programmes that at the end of the day are “guesstimating” what could possibly happen. What comes out of a programme is only as good as what is entered, bit like VW.

    When will politicians not wake up and smell the coffee? What further proof do you need that not all scientists and programming people play with a straight bat and they can make up anything they think that people will believe and get away with it.
    The Climate Change Act should be repealed on Monday morning first thing on the days business.

    Mind you full marks to VW they must be a hell of a company to work for or be tied into. Not one whistle blower in all the time this has been going on. Somebody wrote the programme and made the parts and had the full backing of the company.
    How many more companies are going to be sucked in to this mess?

  18. David L
    September 26, 2015

    The whole concept of “green cars” is, I believe, all marketing hype. People might feel all cosy and nature friendly with their hybrid vehicles, but their previous and polluting car is, most likely, still being driven by someone else, while the carbon footprint of producing hybrids is possibly larger than that of conventional cars. A scientist friend tells me “The most environmentally friendly car you can have is the one you’ve got. Keep it well maintained, drive it gently and don’t use it for short local runs where you can walk instead.” Our family cars are 10 and 16 years old respectively, long may they last!

    1. Bob Nozhitch
      September 26, 2015

      “green cars”, an oxymoron, indeed, just as “compassionate conservatives”?

  19. Peter Bounds
    September 26, 2015

    I think the two key words here are deliberate and admission (on VW’s part). The consequences for them will be very expensive.

    The test will have to change, either the method or limits, but it is difficult to see it being retrospective, as the response from current owners who have purchased their vehicles with good intentions will be terrible to behold.

    The market for petrol and diesel cars, whether new or second hand, will be affected by this, both in the short term, due to uncertainty, and in the longer term when revised regulations have been published.

    It will be interesting to follow the events as the authorities grapple with this issue.

  20. Richard1
    September 26, 2015

    I too went over to a diesel car in the early 2000s, mainly to save money, though in certain company I’m afraid I have occasionally succumbed to the humbug of green self-congratulation. For the push to diesel and the pollution and damage to health – probably including many deaths – which it has caused, we have to thank green zealots focused on their supreme priority of reducing CO2 irrespective of other costs, and their utter intolerance of any debate, of any facts which run counter to their theories and their propensity for vicious personal disparagement of anyone who disagrees with them. One good thing to come out of this scandal will hopefully be public demand for proper, rigorous scrutiny of ‘green’ measures before they are foisted on us in future.

    1. ken moore
      September 27, 2015

      If Dr Redwood were to look at the tailpipe of his Jaguar diesel fitted with a particle filter he will find it to be clean and shiny. Modern diesel is clean if you drive gently. A heavy right foot will produce smoke because a wide open throttle isnt part of the EEC emission test.
      The x number of deaths associated with pm10 is unproven – its just scientists following the money in my view.
      There is no way to factor out deaths from smoking,bad diet etc in heavily urban areas..

      Reply I do not have a Jaguar.

  21. English Pensioner
    September 26, 2015

    I note that numerous VW owners are now suggested that they want compensation because they have been “misled” by the company!

    In my life I have bought and run many cars starting with a Wolseley 9 to my present Honda. I can honestly say that I’ve never bought a car because of its emissions, maybe I looked at the mpg (which I always take with a large “pinch of salt”), but never the emissions simply because I find them meaningless without any other reference point. Cars have been bought for size and affordability and in the case of my latest one, for comfort with an upright seating position for the driver and the availability of a nearby dealer. I suspect similar criteria apply to most purchasers, I know of no-one who was concerned about emissions. I do know of two people who have bought hybrids, but this was for the lower fuel consumption and tax, not specifically because of low emissions.

    But everybody is busy jumping on the bandwagon, any time now I expect PPI type advertisements “Have you bought a VW in the past 10 years because there is a heap of money out there to be claimed . . . . . . ” !

    If the EU and US are so worried, why didn’t they test the cars themselves using independent laboratories? Or even have some qualified observers overseeing the manufacturer’s test?

    To me, it is a storm in a teacup!

    1. Mark
      September 27, 2015

      It seems that VW purchasers’ feelings are hurt. Presumably they’re not the ones breathing in the exhausts – that would be cyclists and pedestrians on the roads they use.

  22. Lifelogic
    September 26, 2015

    The absurd religion/political agenda that has turned the odourless colourless, natural ( and vital for plants gas) CO2 in a polluting devil gas has much to answer for. It is this that is the real tragedy.

    1. pete soakel
      September 26, 2015

      Not enough to tax the air you breathe, tax what you exhale, great ‘innit!

  23. Bert Young
    September 26, 2015

    I have been an owner / user of VW Golfs for many many years ; they have always been incredibly reliable and economical . My present car is a Golf GTD first registered in 1909 ; it has always been impeccable in every respect returning over 50 mpg . From the information provided , my car may not be in the range of Golfs affected – as such I am keeping my fingers crossed , nevertheless , I am gob smacked that this organisation decided to cheat the system and so destroy the confidence of users such as myself .

    Of course there are many different sources of pollutants that contribute to the problems of the enviroment and highlighting them is no bad thing , however , there is no point in doing this unless all countries of the world maintain the standards set ; this is a very unlikely set of circumstance .

    1. Mark
      September 27, 2015

      I presume you will give it its annual outing from Hyde Park to Brighton Esplanade on the 1st of November, alongside the de Dion Boutons?

  24. Tad Davison
    September 26, 2015

    At the time of writing, I am listening to my mate Graham Hughes on local radio. He’s just said that scientists told the EU about these anomalies years ago, but the EU did nothing.

    Maybe that’s because VW is a German company, so I wonder if other manufacturers from other countries would have been ‘supported’ in quite the same way?

    As for diesel engine cars generally, they are far better than they were, even compared to just a few years ago, and they’re getting better all the time. The one I have must run on fumes! To repeat something from an earlier post, I can get 60 MPG without trying, even around town, and over 70 MPG at motorway speeds on a run. My lad has an Audi A4 that’s about 2 years old, and he gets around 50 MPG, and the two cars are very similar in size and performance (incidentally, mine will feature in a magazine due out in October, but more of that on another occasion).

    John makes a valid point about domestic central heating systems. We recently had a new gas boiler fitted that has an A+ rating. My good lady wife came to me this morning having checked our latest Ovo readings, and told me how much we are saving, so these things can be made more efficient, but improvements can only go so far until they taper off whereupon we have to consider new forms of energy.

    I am an unashamed fan of renewable energy, and feel they make sense, although the subsidies they attract might be called into question. The world will inevitably run out of deposits at some point, but we may find that won’t be for a good while yet, so it’s best to use what we have, as efficiently as we can.

    It will be interesting to see the car fuel consumption figures from the review the Transport Secretary has now insisted upon.

    Tad Davison


  25. Mark
    September 26, 2015

    The US EPA provides data on NO2 air quality regionally and nationally across the USA here:

    It shows clearly that NO2 is well below the standards they have set, and shows declining trends. It would seem therefore that the primary objective of lower emissions has been met.

    A similar chart for the UK can be found in Figure 1 here:

    which also shows sharply diminishing trends in other emissions.

    Perhaps both the US and UK governments are fooling themselves (and us) with these measurements in the way they are with constantly revised climate measurements, but it seems unlikely. We do know that the UK government is fooling itself over the true global environmental impact of fuelling Drax with wood chips, and of constructing wind farms, albeit reductions in subsidies for these signal some change of perception.

    Fuelling our own homes with wood burners seems far more problematic:

    1. Mark
      September 27, 2015

      I thought you allowed .gov links – the EPA is part of the US government.

    2. stred
      September 28, 2015

      From the official government graphs ^, Nitrous oxides have reduced by a factor of about three since 1990 and particulates by about four since the 1970s. Other health statistics appear to show a fall in heart and lung disease over the last ten years, London included. The only big increase is in dementia, particularly for women. Life spans are increasing and this is the main reason.

      Can someone please explain why, because in certain heavily congested streets Nox exceeds EU recommended limits, every media outlet and most of the population seems to think we have a huge increase in deadly diesel car pollution and we will be all be dead soon unless we ban them and drive petrol cars instead?

  26. Richard1
    September 26, 2015

    On the subject of green crap I see Drax is stopping carbon capture and storage because the govt has cut subsidies. The BBC has wheeled out past purveyors of green crap such as Ed Davey to say how bad this is and what a disaster it is for ‘investment’ in the UK. I would also like to take this opportunity to complain at the governments refusal to provide me with a few £millions in subsidy for my putative scheme to breed unicorns. Obviously I wouldn’t be able to launch it without subsidy, since it’s unlikely to be economic, but think how good it would be if the govt would subsidise it and other unicorn breeders then came to the UK also!

    1. Lifelogic
      September 26, 2015

      Exactly. Rather surprising they did not dig out Chris Hulme again too for good measure. He wife seems to have become a BBC on message favourite too usually on the Greek issue.

      All those legal bill to pay I assume.

      1. Bob
        September 27, 2015

        I am grateful to Vicky Pryce. She did us all a favour.
        I despair that the British electorate actually vote for people like Chris Huhne.
        There should be a basis IQ test before being registered as a voter.

    2. Mark
      September 26, 2015

      It would be good to hear that money will not be wasted on the Peterhead CCS project either.

  27. forthurst
    September 26, 2015

    Yet another Pyrrhic victory for supporters of SavethePlanet™. Unbeknowst to Green Loons, it is not possible to maximise Diesel engine efficiency and therefore a reduction in the relative production of the harmless gas Carbon Dioxide which does not cause thousands of health related deaths a year, without correspondingly maximising the generation of the Oxides of Nitrogen which do cause thousands of deaths a year; the more thoroughly the diesel fuel is burned using higher temperatures and pressures, the more the tendency for the production of noxious gases. Put Carbon Dioxide into solution and Soda Water is formed; put Nitrogen Dioxide into solution and Nitric Acid is formed.

    etc ed

  28. behindthefrogs
    September 26, 2015

    Why is out government systematically removing its support for green electricity? We need urgent action to increase the installation of solar panels on the roofs of buildings. A change in planning laws to require this of new builds would be a start.

    1. Mark
      September 26, 2015

      I guess because a) they are beginning to understand that the only way to get energy bills lower is not to subsidise expensive methods of production, b) solar panels are useless at night, and almost so in daytime in winter, and c) more jobs are lost through expensive energy than are gained by supporting it.

    2. A different Simon
      September 26, 2015

      Over the past 5 years efficiencies of conversion of light to electricity of PV cells have gone from around 10% to as much as 21% .

      It would have been a massive mistake to have become premature adopters of this technology like the do gooders wanted .

      Insulation isn’t sexy but provides a better bang for the buck doesn’t it ?

      Roofs of buildings are the low hanging fruit for solar as they do not take away land which is not already in use . Do you know the total area of house and garage roofs in the UK ?

      What percentage of UK electricity do you think solar could generate if panels were placed on every roof ?

      Strikes me that the urgency is to keep the lights on and solar can’t make a serious contribution .

      1. Mark
        September 27, 2015

        There have always been higher efficiency solar panels available (they are typically used in spacecraft, where cost is irrelevant, but weight is at a premium): the issue is cost at a given efficiency level here on earth. There is a theoretical limit to the maximum efficiency of solar known as the Shockley–Queisser limit – it’s about a third for a single junction layer cell. Solar panels generally have been available very cheaply at wholesale due to massive overcapacity in the panel manufacturing industry in China. A number of companies have gone bankrupt.

  29. JM
    September 26, 2015

    What really ticks me off is that now we have all responded to the exhortations to go green and buy diesel cars, we are being cast as demonic polluters gassing our fellow members of society and are to be prevented from using our cars in town centres except on payment of penal sums; £20 has been mooted per entry into a town centre. How long before we read more handwringing pieces about the decline of our town centres and what can be done to encourage people to return to them? When will regulators and governing bodies learn to consider the law of unintended consequences? Too often laws and regulations are passed on the assumption that people will not change their behaviour.

  30. libertarian
    September 26, 2015

    You are right and is a signal lesson for those that scream for more regulation in all kinds of fields. Half the time the regulations actually don’t address properly the issue. They are political responses to a problem.

    I drive 2 cars an AMG C63 and Porsche GTS & whilst the regulations and tax are punitive ( purely based on the fact they are luxury cars , not on anything technical) the C02 emissions are around the 192 g/km for Merc & 188 g/km for GTS which is a) much lower than some older , lesser cars which are taxed at lower rates and more importantly the regulations do NOT take into account the overall build and recycle emissions , the highly efficient engine management systems and lower pollution levels overall. Oh and the MPG figures on both cars is way way better than you’d expect. The GTS DFI system has reduced fuel consumption by 15%. NONE of this is taken into account effectively by EU regulations

    September 26, 2015

    I was speaking to a Leader of a Metropolitan Borough Council some time ago and pointed out the well-known truism about waste management: “The knock-out solution is not to produce the waste in the first place. ”
    Persons in his position almost invariably show a toothy grin throughout a comment or question in an American Presidential style which, is nearly as annoying as the *Vocal Fry or Glottal Scrape practiced by some pop stars giving a grated gravel tone to parts their utterances. Of course, my comment did not provoke any worthwhile reply.Nothing much changes in the UK except an added 5p to the price of a supermarket plastic bag.

    Despite its massively boring obviousness and repetitiveness, removing from product production what we used to call “built-in or planned obsolescence” must be the driver to controlling carbon dioxide and pollution.

    The Green Party and the now planned obsolescent olde-worlde Labour Party could be in an ironic sense the first step. Not much will be produced good or bad if they are elected to power. But for sensible parties the idea of economic growth must somehow entail longevity of products. Also a re-think about fashion. The continual desire to buy a new hat just for the sheer joy of it. No I do not have, as yet, a workable economic-political system in mind along democratic lines which could accomplish it. I shall put on my thinking cap…an old one.

    Etc ed

  32. yosarion
    September 26, 2015

    The Great Green and Recycle swindle Business was always about getting Big Business on board, now they are on board its about who’s way is best, Elecrto petrol or Diesel. You can guess which way the Americans went down, its like the battle between Beta-max and VHS, but the real problem is the Worlds People Spewing out more offspring than the World can sustain at this standard of living, though there are those on the sidelines who talk about equality for all but if their past masters are anything to go by, they would quite happily round standards down in the name of Equality.

  33. Lifelogic
    September 26, 2015

    If the government do really believe in the great greencrap/catastrophic warming religion why do they still allow the huge waste of energy and pollution that goes on every bonfire night, even putting on huge new years day and other firework displays at taxpayer expense? Why do they allow Ferraris, Rolls Royces, over large heated houses, earth summits all over the world and endless other total inconsistencies?

    If they want less pollution in cities start by converting all the buses, delivery trucks and taxis (which are in use so much of the time) to LPG or clean petrol engines with some regenerative braking. It was mainly these that kept London air so filthy.

  34. They Work for Us?
    September 26, 2015

    The motor industry is a powerful financial lobby in the EU. They have ushered in technology that whilst making cars somewhat safer and less polluting (if this actually necessary) has made them increasingly complex and difficult to maintain and plans for them to become obsolete and uneconomical to repair after 7 years. An engine management computer is more expensive to replace than the car itself. To take a really extreme example,
    An updated Morris Minor with a stainless steel body and easy to maintain mechanics would mean that many people would have a car as a once and for all purchase. There is an apocryphal story that main dealers lobbied the manufacturer to make their cars more complex and the key parts less accessible in order to give them more business.

  35. JJE
    September 26, 2015

    I wonder which software versions are activated on the cars that the press are given for their reviews? The companies control the supply of these cars, and it is unusual for a journalist to borrow a car from a forecourt to review. Car reviews will need to include software version codes.
    Now that cars are sophisticated computers we have some catching up to do. Not just in testing performance and pollution but in security to combat the potential for malicious hacking.

    1. Lifelogic
      September 26, 2015

      One assume the cars switch to high power and fun mode for the journalists perhaps with a some journalist driving style detector. Unless perhaps they are journalists just doing fuel consumption tests.

  36. Gary
    September 26, 2015

    ah. This data has been known for a year, and surely all car makers are at it. So why vw and why now ? And is this coincident with the refugee dump on Germany ?

    As Roosevelt said, there are no coincidences in politics.

    September 26, 2015

    Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
    A recent study suggested women’s metabolism generates slower attained body temperatures than males; hence “below 27C they actually do feel cold”. The TUC had guidance for years for ideal general office temperatures for clerks ( gender and ethnicity ignored ) of between 18-21C. Scientists have indicated ( ignoring gender, age, health and body weight ) the ideal sleeping room temperature is 18C.

    “Carbon Dioxide and Pollution” First thing to do is to research in a non-Chilcot timeframe various types of human being and determine minimum-maximum tolerances of CO2, temperature, humidity; optimum performance both mental and physical levels. This research requires non-interference by the pc-brigade with its big jaw racist/genderist/fattist dumbcluck chanting.
    Then let us not have scientists enter into quasi-political “debate” about the findings looking for some in-house award or research grant for being controversial.
    Having determined WHAT we in our diverse forms require then it would be advisable to put a D-Notice on the headline seeking press and press on with implementing a form of economics which is balanced to the survival of us all.
    This is war. War does not have a democratic command structure or some Corbynistic pie in the sky dreamboat fantasy procedure.
    Various “leaders” in this world taking positions on Climate Change and talking about “incontrovertible scientific proven evidence” for Climate Change and the badness of Carbon Dioxide have goldfish memories and are most unhelpful.
    The Scientific “Community” because of its “democracy” and competition for job advancements generates contradictory cycles as sure as Spring follows Winter, “incontrovertible scientific proven evidence” every 10-20 years.
    They need a tough hand to make them get the job done properly. Stop messing about. Come up with the answers. The subjects they are studying: human beings. When they open their eyes they may find there are one or two of them hanging about.

  38. ian
    September 26, 2015

    This a good case of how big business, government and the eu work together, people complain about the eu and their government but its big business behind it all, get rid of the eu and nothing will change big business will make sure of that with ttip catch 22. If you save 10 billion from coming out of the eu big business will want its cut, out of the corporation tax that is paid by big business you would be lucky if their share was 20 billion a year and property tax 12 billion a year and the biggest tax they pay is employers IN tax, when put it together it would not come to 90 billion in total, by the end of this parliament corporation tax for them will be at 15% from 20%. On the other hand you pay hundred of billions in tax a year.
    All in all if you take the subsidies that they get they do not pay much tax if any in most cases and they are always busy looking for ways to put small business and individual out of business by having more laws past by your law makes.
    Its a slave system, you pay all the taxes and take all the downside, they mitigate their individual tax by being paid in dividends, pension and by other means to low their tax.
    What can not make out is why they do not want they tax paid by the business they run and any personal tax and the same for their workers and let the business pay all the tax that way they take as much as the share holders can bear tax free with no body pointing the finger at them, I put it down to the trill of being able to get away with it and fiddle the taxes, its the excitement of it all being able to make the laws without being a politician. One day they will leave the shareholders, fund managers, and the city of London who past their pay rises holding the bag with nothing in it

  39. margaret
    September 26, 2015

    VW dealer this am on the box said that it is not affecting sales so far.

  40. ian
    September 26, 2015

    Also they keep innovations from the market by buying ideas which would save you and the government money.
    You only get what they want you to have, mainly toys to play with. You would amazed at what is withheld from the market place.

  41. Mark
    September 26, 2015

    So much for the EU’s free market.

  42. Jon
    September 26, 2015

    The financial world is reasonably complex and I get dismayed often by regulator, political or lobby group protestations that may well get coverage in the media and generate emotion but are fiction.

    On this subject which is complex and one I don’t know about the science detail I’d imagine it’s much the same. Politicians, media, lobbyists, regulators using it as a football to promote their own agenda knowing that the public don’t understand the scientific detail along with them I’d add.

  43. Mark
    September 26, 2015

    I think probably a much more important question is whether the regulators have drawn up sensible targets for overall emissions in the first place. Information is very scant on the real issues and the degree of uncertainty in estimates of every kind. There is a great temptation for politicians to bow to a green agenda, and pretend they are being virtuous, when the actions are nothing of the kind when looked at more closely. Across most of the EU, diesel has attracted far lower duties than petrol (in the UK the duty rates are the same per litre). Perhaps that will now change.

    Once again EU bureaucrats have been caught running their own agenda, in defiance of the public interest.

  44. PaulDirac
    September 26, 2015

    The green lobby irrational and unscientific approach preferred Diesel to petrol.
    All this bruhaha over Diesel 1.6l and 2l cars completely disregards the fact that most buses and all large trucks run on Diesel with huge engines.
    While some city buses can run on electricity, the others will stay.

    1. A different Simon
      September 27, 2015

      PaulDirac ,

      What has the size of the engine got to do with it any more than the colour the block is painted or number of cylinders ?

      A truck pulling 40 tonnes with a large effective frontal area is going to require the same amount of energy to accelerate it from a standstill and push it through the air regardless of engine .

      It is measures such as tax on engine displacement which introduce distortions .

      50 or 60 years ago when our ancestors were really living in austerity Britain , cars were taxed on “RAC horsepower” . This was proportional to the area of the bore of each cylinder multiplied by the number of cylinders .

      It encouraged manufacturers to build wheezing long stroke motors with small valves . Engineers in the rest of the world had the to freedom to choose any combination of bore and stroke they wanted . Practically every British passenger car engine built between 1930 and 1965 was rubbish .

      A better incentive to these artificial incentives is surely to move the tax off the vehicle and the engine onto the fuel .

      1. Mark
        September 27, 2015

        At 10 miles per litre (just under 45 mpg) you’ll use 1,000 litres of fuel to drive 10,000 miles, on which you’d pay £589.50 in fuel duty, and around another £185 in VAT at current pump prices (applies to both petrol and diesel). Most of us pay rather less VED than just the VAT element, I suspect.

  45. ken moore
    September 27, 2015

    The problem is that the european drive cycles have too low a speed and acceleration levels to match real world conditions. They are hopelessly out of date.

    I was part of a team that tested a mid range european saloon over 10 years ago (using emissions tester for NOX CO HC that recorded in real time) and we found emission levels 10 -100 times higher than those under EEC tests.

    Typically manufactuters calibrate the engine for the narrow rev and power band
    needed for the tests ..its just a surprise its been picked up now…
    I suspect the limits are so tight now they are almost impossible to achieve ..the legislators and manufacturers know this but it suits both to keep the status quo

  46. Peejos
    September 27, 2015

    The word pollution has become the latest whistle call to send the flock running in a huddle from one end of the field to the other. Just because something can be measured easily whilst others can’t, and is deemed to deviate from some quite notional concept of perfection, assumptions are made about its hazard to public health. It cannot be possible to directly attribute ultimate death to pollution, indeed government inspired analyses can only postulate, statistically, the possible hazard.

    We have all trailed up a hill behind a lorry or bus belching out clouds to black smoke to have images of potential death etched in our minds, but what is the reality: nobody honestly knows? People living around airports not only have to deal with the concentrated cloud of slow moving vehicle exhausts, but the twice a minute dump of aircraft residue at take off and landing. Have such residents shorter or less congenial lives than the norm?

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