Why Diesel Is Done For in Passenger Cars

Why Diesel Is Done For in Passenger Cars, by Jack Baruth.

“In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today—more serious even than the threat of terrorism.” That is what British scientist and government advisor Sir David King wrote in 2004, four years after the government of that country began a “dash to diesel” largely at his recommendation. As part of that “dash,” the vehicle-tax scheme in the United Kingdom was changed to heavily favor the purchase of diesel cars. …

Two weeks ago, Sir David King admitted to having known at the time that diesel passenger-car engines produced an elevated level of certain dangerous emissions as compared to gasoline-powered cars. At the time, he felt that the threat of climate change outweighed potential emissions-related health effects, which have been accused by some of contributing to 12,000 additional deaths per year just in the UK. He told a BBC radio program that, “I think we, as it turns out, were wrong.”

Now the same British government that used the tax system to punish gasoline-powered cars is using that system to punish the people who bought diesels. London has announced a plan to charge diesel drivers an additional $30 or so per day to enter the city. Other cities across the country, and in Europe as well, are following suit. Paris plans to ban diesel vehicles entirely by 2025, thanks to a series of deadly diesel-related smog events that have shrouded the Eiffel Tower in thick, soupy pollution.

Lawmakers may enact a “cash for diesel clunkers” scheme in Great Britain—or they may not. Already, the resale value of diesel vehicles is plummeting. Much ink is being spilled over what the papers are calling a “monstrous betrayal” of the British motoring public. The repercussions could go on for years to come. The number of additional deaths across the Continent linked to the increased diesel pollution of the past 15 years could turn out to rival the Battle of the Somme in sheer murderous impact.

No matter what happens next, though, here’s something you can bank on: Diesel is dead. I called it in these pages some time ago, and it turns out I was right. The emissions numbers were fudged, perhaps across the industry. The health effects were real. A generation of policymakers looked the other way because they were more concerned about polar bears floating on lonely ice caps than they were about the lives of their own constituents.

And the concern about polar bears was misplaced and based on faulty models, because they never checked the calculations.