New legislation, reforming the previous legislation dating back to 2007, is under approval to improve tests effectiveness. However lobbyists are attempting to delay the implementation of new reform.
Tests have been manipulated with complicit knowledge between car manufacturers and national control agencies. As a result, the emissions levels have surpassed thresholds set by EU legislation. Resulting in excess air pollution which has an impact on human health.
Based on available data and methodologies, we intend to quantify the health cost that citizens in Member States had and will have to pay due to car emissions that are still (and will likely continue to be, if lobbyists win the current legislative battle) above the EU limits. It is of absolute of vital importance that people are made aware of the detrimental effects of car-induced air pollution; and about how one of the symbol of modern well-being – a car – can become the source of serious harm if left uncontrolled.
We will create an interactive map that readers can interact with to calculate the health costs (death, hospitals, treatments) of driving a car in their own country, as compared to other countries. During our investigative research we had the opportunity to invest our time in better understanding the complex legislation and rules behind Dieselgate: we spoke with experts about lobbying activities and the most difficult technical aspects. We talked with lawyers, MPs and journalists, gathering a compelling amount of information that allowed us to really grasp the subject and, eventually, drawing our conclusions.
We realise that it’s such a complex and specialised issue that could prevent the average news reader from becoming widely knowledgeable about the topic. However we have done the dirty work for the average reader. We gathered data and divided information into different and relevant sections that are easily accessible and fast to navigate. We do not want to tell another Dieselgate story, our aim is to go beyond the classic journalistic way of building a truth ready to be consumed by the reader. Rather, we want to provide readers with tools to develop critical ideas unique to them pushing debate.
Every citizen can have its own Dieselgate story; although it began in Brussels, wandering in offices, reading big titles in newspapers, speaking about high-brown managers, all immersed in far from reality outlook. Eventually we want to discuss about your own car that you keep in your garage about the air that you breathe every time you go to work or just you enjoy a sunny warm day. We hope to shed a new light on the problem, to give you the tools to be more aware and stop letting other people decide for you. Here we give you the facts. Draw your own opinion. Make your choice.
WHAT DRIVES OUR INVESTIGATION
The infamous Dieselgate scandal is coming to an end; press coverage is steadily decreasing and ongoing legislation lack results. A few people have lost their jobs, no one was convicted and in the European Union – an institution which portrays itself as one of the most active players in the environmental protection battle has not been held accountable. And ultimately the principle of the paying polluter was not applied.
We feel that there are still important questions that need to be answered: who are the culprits? How could it happen? But even more important : how exceeding emissions have affected our lives taking into account all the different costs? We like talking about “costs” because it has many definitions which can account for several aspects. When we speak about costs we mean certainly health costs – years of life lost, health expenses and hospital admittance – but length of time that was needed to produce a quite disappointing legislation, money spent in legal cases and so on.
Where possible we try to quantify with figures, taken from different studies. Some specifications have to be done in advance. Especially with the high figures that become cold and fail to actually the life that there is behind those numbers. Putting a face on those numbers is something we should all do.
We will talk about the thousands of people and how they are effected by this scandal. We hope that after reading the uninterested attitude towards the environment and more specifically Diesel gate stop. Everybody, to a greater or smaller extent, is affected by air pollution and without no action the situation is not getting any better.
It’s important to know that data can bring uncertainty with them. We can make inferences however it is difficult to point a name against a murderer or to remember the name of a victim. That does not entail that the problem is any less real.
As we will see later, the actions of a single country have major impacts over all its neighbouring states. To sum it up, “no country is an island”. It is clear that this is intrinsically an issue to be dealt with at the European level, with Member States incapable of avoiding what under economical terms are called “negative externalities”. If they cannot be held accountable for that, a higher entity must be able to take the situation under controls, imposing economical sanctions directly to non-complying states.
WHAT DO CARS MEAN FOR US? A MULTILATERAL POINT OF VIEW
It would be difficult to imagine our society without cars; they’ve become part of our environment, a symbol of modernity and economic well-being. There are many variables that we do not take into account when we calculate the positive aspects of having a car. It would be better for us to begin doing calculations; luckily Austrian philosopher – Ivan Illich – did this for us and invented what is called “consumer speed” – a very original, yet not untrue, way of looking at what does it mean to possess a car:
The model American male devotes more than 1600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while he drives and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns money to put down on it and to meet the monthly installments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it. This figure does not take into account the time consumed by other activities dictated by transport: time spent in hospitals, traffic courts, and garages; time spent watching automobile commercials or attending consumer education meetings to improve the quality of the next buy. The American model puts in 1600 hours to get 7500 miles: less than five miles per hour [the consumer speed]. In countries deprived of a transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only 3 to 8 percent of their society’s time budget to traffic instead of 28 percent. What distinguishes the traffic in rich countries from the traffic in poor countries is not more mileage per hour of life-time for the majority; rather more hours of compulsory consumption of high doses of energy, packaged and unequally distributed by the transportation industry.
Opinions can vary, but it’s reasonable to recognize how cars in our society have become a dogma. Any alternative to cars sounds backwards attempting to fracture the very roots of our society. There is a reason for that: cars incorporate the myths of our modern society. They praise the individual freedom and power, emancipating the person from the rest of society. They require personification, they have to be unique and are a projection of the human body. They are part of us. However a question can be raised: do we know our cars? Our opinion is that we can barely understand them and here there are some of our reasons.
Cars bring with them numerous costs that are rarely taken into consideration: maintenance; accidents; air pollution; water pollution; soil pollution; costs to the environment; noise and important energy dependency. There are, therefore, several effects and implications on the environment and our health to take into account however more difficult to quantify. The huge economic significance the issue represents a serious threat to an objective way of dealing with it. As a result the customer is left highly uninformed. We can see this in car advertisement, where car companies often try to show car darting through pristine natural landscapes and following their line in complete harmony with it. It creates an association which is far from the truth of the realities of car ownership. Advertisements fail to show the realities of car congestion in a metropolitan city, expenses and parking which would be a more honest portrait.
A final point upon which we would like to draw your attention is the other extreme of the matter. Every day we are bombarded by a lot of information. It’s extremely difficult for our cognitive systems to absorb and analyse them; let’s try to move away from this and to cast a doubt on some of them. Dieselgate is a man-made scandal, driven by economic interests. It was avoidable since we have at our disposal greener technology at a higher cost. We will show indeed that the cheating imposed so many costs that nobody had never considered.