The C02 Trump Card

It had to happen – and now it has.

VW – and soon, everyone else, inevitably – is under the gun over “emissions” that aren’t even pollutants.

Carbon dioxide.

This inert gas (look it up if you missed it in high school chemistry) doesn’t contribute to smog, cause acid rain, deplete the the ozone layer, irritate the lungs, or harm babies. Plants breathe it and by breathing it, produce the oxygen we need to breathe. If C02 is a “pollutant” then according to the same logic, so is water vapor (oy, don’t give them ideas).

But carbon dioxide is a “greenhouse gas” that contributes to “climate change,” the new (and pope-approved!) catch-all phrase that encompasses warmer and colder weather, neatly pathologizing both of them.

Cows produce it; we produce it and cars produce it.

VW is in the crosshairs because of this.

A couple of days ago, the company issued another apologia (here) for “understating” the “emissions” of this inert gas by its gasoline-powered (note italics) powered cars. The “affected” vehicles (about 1 million of them, so far) this time aren’t U.S. models but they aren’t diesel models.

In Europe, you see, they already treat carbon dioxide – an inert gas – as a motor vehicle exhaust subject to government regulation. This is not yet the case in the U.S., but it is only a matter of time.

As they used to say in Germany before the war – der tag kommt.

The Europeans have fully embraced the climate change tar baby – which means they’ve accepted the idea that the inert gas, carbon dioxide, is something that must be “controlled.”

And you can’t control C02 without controlling people.

That’s the beauty of it – from the perspective of those who want to “save the planet” from personal mobility via the privately owned car: Carbon dioxide emissions can’t be eliminated or even appreciably “controlled” without eliminating or severely controlling internal combustion. Because C02 is the product of normal combustion whereas the exhaust emissions heretofore considered harmful (and regulated) are the by products of imperfect (incomplete) combustion.

Again, note the italics.

Since the dawn of the Emissions Era – the late 1960s, when the first steps were taken to “control” what came out of the tailpipe – the object has been to make combustion more complete because it is chiefly incomplete combustion that results in the stuff that wrinkles your nose, smogs the sky and waters your eyes. Not all the gas that’s fed to the engine ends up being consumed by the engine; a certain percentage of unburned hydrocarbons (that’s the fuel) escaped into the air via the tailpipe.

For the past almost 50 years, emissions controls have sought to capture or convert these unburned hydrocarbons into harmless compounds such as – wait for it – carbon dioxide and water vapor. Which – it used to be thought – were no threat to anyone’s health, including the planet’s.

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