It doesn’t seem that long ago that VW was sued for the “Diesel Gate” scandal in which many VW diesel vehicles were found to be using emissions cheat devices.
Now there’s another diesel emissions situation, this time involving accusations that Cummins used diesel defeat devices for almost one million diesel engines in Ram pickup trucks.
If we head on over to the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) website, we get the precise verbiage:
“Engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. today disclosed that it has reached an agreement in principle with the United States and State of California to pay a $1.675 billion penalty to settle claims that it violated the Clean Air Act by installing emissions defeat devices on hundreds of thousands of engines.”
And here are the exact figures with Ram models referenced: “The company allegedly installed defeat devices on 630,000 model year 2013 to 2019 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup truck engines. The company also allegedly installed undisclosed auxiliary emission control devices on 330,000 model year 2019 to 2023 RAM 2500 and 3500 pickup truck engines.” The total number of pickup truck engines involved is 960,000.
Defeat devices, whether mechanical parts or software, can be used to make a vehicle’s emissions appear lower than they actually are. Diesel exhaust contains chemicals that harm human health and the environment.
The DOJ page explains, “The types of devices we allege that Cummins installed in its engines to cheat federal environmental laws have a significant and harmful impact on people’s health and safety. For example, in this case, our preliminary estimates suggest that defeat devices on some Cummins engines have caused them to produce thousands of tons of excess emissions of nitrogen oxides. The cascading effect of those pollutants can, over long-term exposure, lead to breathing issues like asthma and respiratory infections.”
Well, yes, but this explanation doesn’t seem to go quite far enough. Diesel exhaust also contains particulate matter, which can contribute to human fatalities.
In just one year, 385,000 worldwide human deaths were linked to vehicle exhaust and almost half of those to diesel exhaust. “Some 385,000 people worldwide died prematurely in 2015 from air pollution caused by vehicle exhaust emissions, a US study found Wednesday, which singled out diesel engines as the main culprit. Diesel vehicles were responsible for 47 percent of the deaths, it said, but the figure jumped as high as 66 percent in France, Germany, Italy and India where diesels make up a large proportion of cars on the road.”
Diesel exhaust may also have a connection to cancer, “After three decades of epidemiologic research, diesel exhaust was classified as a carcinogen in humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2012 based on evidence of its carcinogenicity to the lung (1).”
So what happens to the 960,000 diesel Ram pickup trucks? A CleanTechnica article about VW’s Diesel Gate described buying back 500,000 of the dirty VW diesels. Will there be anything done with all the diesel Ram pickup trucks?
Re-reviewing what the DOJ wrote doesn’t seem to get to the final crux of the matter — “our preliminary estimates suggest that defeat devices on some Cummins engines have caused them to produce thousands of tons of excess emissions of nitrogen oxides.”
What about other harmful chemicals in the diesel exhaust? Preliminary estimates seems to imply there may be more estimates coming, but additional future estimates aren’t mentioned.
The source used for this article included a reference to Cummins making a relatively small recall. “It says it has recalled some affected trucks at the cost of $58 million, and that it expects the settlement to cost if $2.04 billion total. Cummins says it “has seen no evidence that anyone acted in bad faith and does not admit wrongdoing.””
When the VW diesel emissions cheating scandal hit, it seemed reasonable then to wonder how long the cheating had been going prior to it. Was it happening for decades before it was caught?
This current situation seems similar. How can internal combustion engine and diesel engine manufacturers be trusted to disclose the truth about the toxic emissions generated by their vehicles?
How can we, as members of the public, trust such corporations when they have obvious conflicts of interest?
Well, one answer is simply to stop buying new vehicles that use internal combustion engines, including diesels.
We as consumers, collectively speaking, have a lot of power to push back on such egregious corporate behavior.
Will there be more “diesel gates” coming in our future?