Can it get any worse for diesel? According to Automotive News, Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW jointly sponsored laboratory studies going back to 2007 in which humans were asked to inhale diesel exhaust fumes. As of this moment, nobody seems to know what the purpose of those studies was. At least 25 humans participated in the testing and monkeys were also part of the testing protocols.
The 3 automakers and Bosch formed an organization known as the European Research Association for Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT). The research group closed quietly last year but a report by the New York Times published on January 25 suggested that monkeys had inhaled diesel exhaust fumes as part of the research. Then on January 29, the Stuttgart Times revealed that humans had been included in the studies as well. The testing was carried out at a laboratory at the University of Aaschen.
German automakers are as firmly wedded to manufacturing and selling diesel-powered vehicles as US manufacturers are to selling bloated pickup trucks. It is not a stretch to say most of the profits the German car companies have made over the past 2 decades are attributable to the sale of diesel-powered cars. So what was the purpose of the study? If anyone knows, they are keeping very quiet, at least for the moment.
Stephan Weil represents the German state of Lower Saxony, which is one of Volkswagen’s largest shareholders. He sits on the Volkswagen board of directors and says the board was urging Volkswagen to provide information about what information the studies were designed to obtain. “At the end of the day, the purpose of such experiments is the decisive factor. If for example, safety and health in the workplace were being tested, as Aachen University has suggested, and ethical standards were adhered to, it is defensible. Where experiments served the purposes of marketing and sales, however, I cannot think of an acceptable justification for such an approach.”
Others are much less inclined to give the companies the benefit of the doubt. According to the story in the Stuttgart Times, Environmental Action Germany, an environmental group, has been critical of “the manipulation of political decisions through paid contract research by BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen” for years. Jürgen Resch, the group’s CEO, says that interest in the diesel exhaust studies has been sparked by investigations in the US into Volkswagen’s diesel cheating schemes, which has “apparently set the EUGT in a panic.” EUGT’s website suddenly disappeared and everything that could be erased has been deleted. Resch calls the EUGT “one of the most blatantly active fake news lobby organizations operating on behalf of the industry.”
While the companies are rushing to distance themselves from the activities of EUGT, saying they knew nothing about the group’s activities, Stuttgart Times says high-ranking executives of all the companies were listed as members of the group’s board of directors. At one time, the chairman of the executive board was Professor Gunter Zimmermeyer, a former managing director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry.
Lobbycontrol, another German public interest group, also doubts the bona fides of the denials coming from the manufacturers. It sees a parallel to “fake science methods” in other industries in which scientists were paid “to trivialize the health damage of their products and avert harsher laws.” Christina Deckwirth of Lobbycontrol had especially scathing things to say about EUGT chief scientist Greim. She claims he was a “a key figure” in the campaign to keep Volkswagen’s diesel cheating scheme quiet.
In an email to Automotive News, Daimler said, “We are appalled by the extent of the studies and their implementation. We condemn the experiments in the strongest terms.” Daimler said it had no influence over the studies and will conduct an immediate investigation. BMW has yet to comment on the story.
The ultimate irony of this story is that the diesel exhaust used in the studies was helpfully provided by a Volkswagen Golf TDI — the poster child for the worldwide Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal that broke back in September of 2015. The latest reports can’t help but further tarnish the reputation of diesel and sour regulators on permitting sales of diesel cars to continue.
The German manufacturers — anxious not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg — are still trying to make diesel engines for passenger cars that meet Euro 6 emissions. Just last week, KBA, a German industry watchdog, ordered Audi to recall over 100,000 vehicles equipped with V6 diesel engines it says are equipped with yet another emissions defeat device. The campaign by German car manufacturers to keep the diesel gravy train going apparently knows no bounds.
Editor’s note: Is it any wonder tens of millions of people are drawn to Tesla and it’s rather simple and pure mission of moving the world into a clean, sustainable energy future faster?
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