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More Diesel Cheating ... It's Time to Say Goodbye to the Internal Combustion Engine
The news that Fiat-Chrysler is the latest auto-maker caught having massively—and probably illegally—exceeded allowable emission levels for its diesels cars raises a major question: Will this crisis shake Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne's long standing bet against history, in particular against the replacement of the internal combustion engine by the electric drive train?
Marchionne stands almost alone in the auto industry in denying the electric future—but now that he too faces an existential crisis over diesel cheating, how much longer can he—or his shareholders—cling to the combustion past?
Chrysler, we now know, installed software designed to deceive emission testing procedures on 100,000 U.S. Dodge Ram and Jeep Cherokee diesels from 2014-2016. It also apparently pulled similar manipulations in Europe. The company has agreed to recall and fix the vehicles, but denies it broke the law—standard operating procedure for auto companies when first caught exceeding pollution limits.
Fiat stands accused of having installed similar emission "cheat" devices on much larger numbers of cars it sold in Europe—it's not yet clear how widespread the issue is, but this feels very much like the early stages of what could be a major scandal. The European Union has initiated legal action against Italy for failing to adequately enforce EU standards for auto emissions testing on cars made by Fiat. And the University of the Ruhr reported that Fiat installed cheat devices on the Fiat 500X, a compact diesel widely sold in Europe.
The U.S. violations were clearly part of the company's strategy to use somewhat more efficient diesels to meet increasingly stringent U.S. fuel efficiency and carbon emission rules while clinging to a vehicle mix very stuffed full of SUV's and almost entirely devoid of the zero emission electric vehicles which other auto makers are relying on to average out with their big cars. (Chrysler has consistently shown the worst fuel economy performance of any U.S. auto manufacturer).
Marchionne has historically derided the future of the electric vehicle, at one point urging customers not to buy Fiat's EV 500 because "I lose $10,000 making every one." He is also the major auto executive least interested in producing standards sedans for ordinary customers, cancelling many of Chrysler's biggest selling sedans and emphasizing SUV's even more heavily.
Without a strong car line, and with no meaningful EV presence, Marchionne really had no choice but to rely on diesels to cut fuel consumption—regardless of the inability of small diesels in particular to meet pollution requirements. Now he, like Volkswagen, is nakedly exposed as having allowed his company to sell vehicles whose emissions kill its customer and their neighbors—a new study this week calculated that the excess emissions from diesels that fail to meet pollution standards already kills 38,000 people a year globally. Now the burden from non-compliant Fiats and Chryslers will be added to that total.
The diesel scandal forced Volkswagen to make a major shift away from diesels and towards electric drive trains. Will Marchionne follow? After all, the other six of the big seven auto manufacturers are each far ahead of Chrysler in their investment in the electric future. But Marchionne has said that Fiat's next likely model of electric car won't arrive until after he has retired; he worries that allowing electrification to get a firm hold in the auto market will open the industry up to new competitors; and the SUV heavy product line he deploys doesn't offer easy opportunities for early electrification.
But if he stays his electro-sceptic course, Marchionne is betting even more heavily against what appear to be the historic trends. The two fastest growing auto markets in the world, China and India, have national governments sending strong signals that they plan to phase out market access for the internal combustion engine altogether, perhaps as soon as 2030, as does the biggest market within the U.S., California. A recent Financial Times story reported that Torotrak, an engineering company which a year ago was lining up contracts with auto makers to improve the efficiency of their internal combustion engines, is now being cut off from contracts because the companies have decided, "the shift to electric vehicles is accelerating and we have only limited R&D money to invest and we are going to put all of it into the electric car revolution."
The head of Shell Oil, one of the ultimate losers in an electrified transport sector, warned that "the energy transition is global. It must be embraced. It is unstoppable." And it means, he spelled out, electric vehicles. "The world needs to make a massive shift towards consuming energy as electricity," he said.
While short-term the scandal is bad news for Fiat Chrysler, its shareholders and its workers, it may give the company one last time to catch up with history—and recognize that electrification is the future of the auto.
To learn more about Carl Pope's views on the environment, energy and climate, read Climate of Hope which he has co-authored with former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and which can be purchased online or from your local book store.
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By Jennifer Molidor
One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.
"The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism wishes to inform the public that following extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the government announced in a press release shared on social media.
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In a big victory for animals, Prada has announced that it's ending its use of fur! It joins Coach, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and many others PETA has pushed toward a ban.
This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada's catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA's behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.
If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.
"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
- Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change ›
- How working less could solve all our problems. Really. | ›
- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›