Quantcast
Business

Elon Musk Signs Open Letter Proposing Radical Fix to VW's Emission Scandal

A group of prominent green technology investors and advocates sent an open letter (see below) to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Thursday. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, former eBay President Jeff Skoll, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, Carl Pope of Inside Straight Strategies and SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive were among the 45 signatories urging CARB to rethink its plan to recall Volkswagen cars with emissions-cheating software. 

The letter urges the state's emissions regulators to "abandon the plan to force Volkswagen to fix their emissions-cheating cars and instead require that the company put the resources it would take to accomplish that into transitioning to a zero-emissions car company."

The authors of the letter call the plan "costly and impractical." They warn CARB against wasting materials and money, arguing that "a giant sum of money [will] be wasted in attempting to fix cars that cannot all be fixed, and where the fix may be worse than the problem if the cars are crushed well before the end of their useful lives."

Instead, they suggest mandating VW to "accelerate greatly its rollout of zero-emission vehicles, which by their very nature, have zero emissions and thus present zero opportunities for cheating, and also do not require any enforcement dollars to verify," the letter reads.

The authors cite "net greater carbon dioxide emissions, a regulated pollutant" as further reason for CARB not to execute its current plan, along with "compromise[d] performance" of the fixed vehicles. To heed its proposed alternative solution "would be a real win for California emissions, a big win for California jobs and a historic action to help derail climate change."

CARB declined to directly address the letter. “Our focus has and will continue to be cleaning the air and advancing the cleanest vehicle and fuel technologies,” CARB spokesperson Dave Clegern told Newsweek.

Here's the letter in its entirety:

An Open Letter to California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols

The VW emissions scandal is mainly the result of physics meeting fiction. In the simplest terms, we have reached the point of de miminis returns in extracting performance from a gallon of diesel while reducing pollutants, at least at reasonable cost. Unsurprisingly, and despite having the greatest research and development program in diesel engines, VW had to cheat to meet current European and U.S. standards. Meeting future tighter diesel standards will prove even more fruitless.

For a significant fraction of the non-compliant diesel cars already in the hands of drivers, there is no real solution. Drivers won’t come in for a fix that compromises performance. Further, solutions which result in net greater CO2 emissions, a regulated pollutant, are inappropriate for CARB to endorse. Retrofitting urea tank systems to small cars is costly and impractical. Some cars may be fixed, but many won’t and will be crushed before they are fixed.

A giant sum of money thus will be wasted in attempting to fix cars that cannot all be fixed, and where the fix may be worse than the problem if the cars are crushed well before the end of their useful lives. We, the undersigned, instead encourage the CARB to show leadership in directing VW to “cure the air, not the cars” and reap multiples of what damage has been caused while strongly advancing California’s interests in transitioning to zero-emission vehicles.

The solution we propose for VW and the CARB is to, in a legally enforceable form:

1. Release VW from its obligation to fix diesel cars already on the road in California, which represent an insignificant portion of total vehicles emissions in the state, and which cars do not, individually, present any emissions-related risk to their owners or occupants

2. Instead, direct VW to accelerate greatly its rollout of zero-emission vehicles, which by their very nature, have zero emissions and thus present zero opportunities for cheating, and also do not require any enforcement dollars to verify

3. Require that this acceleration of the rollout of zero emissions vehicles by VW result in a 10 for 1 or greater reduction in pollutant emissions as compared to the pollution associated with the diesel fleet cheating, and achieve this over the next 5 years

4. Require that VW invest in new manufacturing plants and/or research and development, in the amounts that they otherwise would have been fined, and do so in California to the extent that California would have been allocated its share of the fines

5. Allow VW some flexibility in the execution and timing of this plan by allowing it to be implemented via zero-emission vehicle credits.

In contrast to the punishments and recalls being considered, this proposal would be a real win for California emissions, a big win for California jobs, and a historic action to help derail climate change.

The bottleneck to the greater availability of zero emissions vehicles is the availability of batteries. There is an urgent need to build more battery factories to increase battery supply, and this proposal would ensure that large battery plant and related investments, with their ensuing local jobs, would be made in the U.S. by VW.

A satisfactory way to fix all the diesel cars does not likely exist, so this solution sidesteps the great injury and uncertainty that imposing an ineffective fix would place on individual diesel car owners. A drawn out and partial failure of the process will only exacerbate the public’s lack of trust in the industry and its regulators. By explicit design, this proposal would achieve, in contrast, a minimum of a 10X reduction in pollutant emissions as compared to a complete fix.

There is a precedent for this type of resolution. In the industry-wide 1990 diesel truck cheating scandal, the EPA chose not to require an interim recall but instead moved up the deadline for tougher standards to make up the difference. This proposal does the same for VW and ties the solution to a transition to zero emissions vehicles.

We strongly urge CARB to consider this proposal in resolving the VW cheating scandal.

Ion Yadigaroglu, Partner, Capricorn Investment Group; Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla and SpaceX; Jeff Skoll, CEO, Jeff Skoll Group; Dipender Saluja, Partner, Capricorn Investment Group; Carl Pope, Inside Straight Strategies, Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO, Social Capital; Ira Ehrenpreis, Partner, DBL Partners; Hal Harvey, CEO, Energy Innovation; Antonio Gracias, CEO, Valor Equity Partners; Lyndon Rive, CEO, SolarCity; Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club; Cole Frates, Renewable Resources Group; Ari Swiller, Renewable Resources Group; Lawrence Bender, Producer, An Inconvenient Truth; Reuben Munger, Partner, Vision Ridge; Jigar Shah, President, Generate Capital Angel; Jason Calacanis, Launch Fund Partner; Gregory Manuel, MNL Partners; Adam Wolfensohn, Partner, Encourage Capital; Jason Scott, Partner, Encourage Capital; Martin Roscheisen, CEO, Diamond Foundry; Steve Westly, Former California State Controller; Jules Kortenhorst, CEO, Rocky Mountain Institute; Steven Dietz, Partner, Upfront Ventures; Kevin Parker, CEO, Sustainable Insight Capital; Anja Manuel, Partner, RiceHadleyGates; Larry Lunt, CEO, Armonia; Mindy Lubber, President, Ceres; Tom Darden, Partner, Cherokee Fund; Panos Ninios, Partner, True Green Capital; Jesse Fink, Chairman, MissionPoint; Matt Breidert, Senior Portfolio Manager, Ecofin; Suhail Rizvi, CEO, Rizvi Traverse; Jeffrey Tannenbaum, Chairman, sPower; Rob Davenport, Managing Partner, Brightpath Capital; Stuart Davidson, Chairman, Sonen; Laurence Levi, Partner, VO2 Partners; Rob Day, Partner, Black Coral Capital; Dan Fuller, CIO, Fuller Smith; Nicholas Eisenberger, Partner, Pure Energy; Marc Stuart, CEO, Allotrope Partners; Justin Kamine, Kamine Development; Peter R. Stein, Managing Director, Lyme Timber; Bruce Kahn, PM, Sustainable Insight; and Raúl Pomares, Capital Managing Director, Sonen

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Europe’s Dirty Little Secret: Moroccan Slaves and a ‘Sea of Plastic’

Monsanto to Be Put on Trial for ‘Crimes Against Nature and Humanity’

Pledge Signed to Make All New Passenger Vehicles Zero Emissions by 2050

3 Communities Transition Away From Fossil Fuels to Run on 100% Renewables

 

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular
Desperate for water, Puerto Ricans are resorting to any available sources, such as this stream in Cayey. Angel Valentin / NPR

Desperate Puerto Ricans Are Drinking Water From Hazardous Waste Sites

The ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee called for an investigation into the availability of potable water in Puerto Rico following reports Friday that residents are scrounging for water from hazardous waste sites.

After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed residents were trying to access water from three Superfund sites, and following a CNN story Friday featuring Puerto Ricans taking water from a fourth site, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wrote a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke asking if she knew about the situation and calling the reports "beyond disturbing."

Keep reading... Show less
Brant at Izembek Lagoon. Kristine Sowl / USFWS

Groups Slam Zinke's 'Backroom Deals' to Build Road Through Alaskan Wildlife Refuge

Ryan Zinke's Interior Department is working behind the scenes to build a controversial and long-contested road through the heart of Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, documents show.

The refuge was established more than 30 years ago to conserve wetlands and habitats for migrating birds, brown bears and salmon and other wildlife. 300,000 of its 315,000 acres has been designated as Wilderness in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Keep reading... Show less
FAO / Giulio Piscitelli

On World Food Day, Pope Francis Says Link Between Climate Change and Hunger Is Undeniable

By Andrew McMaster

Speaking at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on World Food Day, Pope Francis addressed the need for governments around the world to acknowledge that climate change and migration were leading to increases in world hunger.

Francis received a standing ovation after a stirring speech in which he said all three issues were interrelated and require immediate attention.

Keep reading... Show less
The pallid bat is native to the western U.S., where the spread of white-nose syndrome is a threat. Ivan Kuzmin / Shutterstock

Why Are America's Bats Disappearing?

By John R. Platt

It's Friday evening in Pittsburgh, and the mosquitoes are out in force. One bites at my arm and I try to slap it away. Another takes the opportunity to land on my neck. I manage to shoo this one off before it tastes blood.

I'm at Carrie Furnaces, a massive historic ironworks on the banks of Pennsylvania's Monongahela River. Stories-tall rusting structures loom all around me, as do the occasional trees poking their way out of the ground. A tour guide, leading a group from the Society of Environmental Journalists conference, tells me the soil here is full of heavy metals and other pollutants from the factory, which operated for nearly a century before closing in 1982.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
The Amur tiger is the extinct Caspian tiger's closest living relative. Mathias Appel / Flickr

After a Half-Century, Tigers May Return to Kazakhstan

Wild tigers may be on their way back to Kazakhstan.

This news is surprising for a few reasons. First, most people associate tigers with the jungles of India or Sumatra, even the snowy slopes of eastern Russia—not the dry landscapes of Central Asia. But Iran, Turkey and Kazakhstan were once home to thriving populations of Caspian tigers. Unfortunately, sometime between the 1940s and '70s, this subspecies went extinct due to widespread trapping, hunting, poisoning and habitat degradation.

Second, Kazakhstan isn't a nation that often comes up in conversations about conservation. In fact, if Americans recognize the world's largest landlocked nation for anything, it's probably the movie Borat.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

California Wildfires: One of 'Greatest Tragedies' State Has Ever Faced

With aid from easing winds, the 11,000 firefighters beating back the Northern California wildfires are making "good progress," as the number of major blazes dropped to 15, the state's fire agency Cal Fire announced Sunday.

But as Cal Fire noted‚ "Sadly, the death toll has risen to 40 people."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Bonn Climate Change Conference, June 4 2015. UNclimatechange / Flickr.

UN Urges World Leaders to Heed Climate Risk, Warns of More Severe Disasters

By Paul Brown

The hurricanes and wildfires that have severely damaged large areas of the U.S. in recent weeks have had no impact on President Donald Trump's determination to ignore the perils of climate change and support the coal industry.

In a deliberate denial of mainstream science, the Trump administration has issued a strategic four-year plan for the U.S. Environment Protection Agency that does not once mention "greenhouse gas emissions," "carbon dioxide" or "climate change" in its 48 pages.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
www.youtube.com

Oil Rig Explodes in Louisiana: 7 Injured, 1 Missing

An oil rig exploded on Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana Sunday night, injuring seven crew members, with an eighth believed to be missing, authorities said.

The explosion was reported at 7:18 p.m. near St. Charles Parish and the city of Kenner. The platform, located in unincorporated Jefferson Parish, is owned by New Orleans-based Clovelly Oil Company.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox