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United Kingdom Earth Transportation Science

Diesel Cars Contribute To 5,000 Premature Deaths a Year In Europe, Says Study (phys.org) 215

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Emissions from diesel cars rigged to appear eco-friendly may be responsible for 5,000 air pollution deaths per year in Europe alone, according to a study published on Monday. The numbers are in line with previous assessments of deaths due to the so-called "Dieselgate" scandal, which erupted when carmaker Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating on vehicle emissions tests. Many other carmakers have since fallen under suspicion. The researchers from Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands calculated that about 10,000 deaths in Europe per year can be attributed to small particle pollution from light duty diesel vehicles (LDDVs). Almost half of these would have been avoided if emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel cars on the road had matched levels measured in the lab. If diesel cars emitted as little NOx as petrol ones, almost 4,000 of the 5,000 premature deaths would have been avoided, said the authors. The countries with the heaviest burden are Italy, Germany, and France, the team added, "resulting from their large populations and high share of diesel cars in their national fleets." Touted as less polluting, the share of diesel cars in Europe rose fast compared to petrol since the 1990s, and now comprise about half the fleet. There are more than 100 million diesel cars in Europe today, twice as many as in the rest of the world together, said the study authors. Diesel engines emit less planet-warming carbon dioxide than petrol ones, but significantly more NOx. The study has been published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
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Diesel Cars Contribute To 5,000 Premature Deaths a Year In Europe, Says Study

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  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Monday September 18, 2017 @10:42PM (#55223491) Journal

    Then we're even, right?

  • Usually, if you read the small print, it means something like 'someone who was seriously ill and would have died a few weeks later anyway.' In other words, pretty much totally irrelevant to anything but the Green agenda.

    What's the definition used in this study?

    • In other words, pretty much totally irrelevant to anything but the Green agenda.

      " Diesel engines emit less planet-warming carbon dioxide than petrol ones, but significantly more NOx."

      So... the green agenda people should be happy with diesel cars, right?

      • Its even worse than that..

        NOx reacts with Methane to remove it from the atmosphere, and Methane is much MUCH worse that CO2 with regards to greenhouse effects.
        Estimates vary, however the accepted figure appears to be that the net effect of global diesel use is 20% net cooling effect.

        So yes, Diesel contributes to global cooling! Climate change! Disaster!

        (Also, lightning creates about the same amount of NOx as small vehicles, and both are much less than shipping, aircraft, or heavy industry..)

        • Its even worse than that. NOx reacts with Methane to remove it from the atmosphere, and Methane is much MUCH worse that CO2 with regards to greenhouse effects.

          News flash: oxygen reacts with methane to remove it from the atmosphere. Nitrogen oxides are 0.00003% of the atmosphere. Oxygen is 20% of the atmosphere. Putting more nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere has a negative effect on health, but doesn't reduce the amount of methane in the atmosphere enough to notice.

          Estimates vary, however the accepted figure appears to be that the net effect of global diesel use is 20% net cooling effect.

          Another news flash: making shit up really isn't a substitute for science.

          So yes, Diesel contributes to global cooling! Climate change! Disaster!

          To repeat: making shit up really isn't a substitute for science.

          (Also, lightning creates about the same amount of NOx as small vehicles, and both are much less than shipping, aircraft, or heavy industry..)

          Lightning produces some nitrogen oxides. Specifically, "over

  • Not sure about the study, but the author of the article clearly has no clue what he/she is writing about. First the article says "10,000 deaths in Europe per year can be attributed to small particle pollution..." and then it continues "Almost half of these would have been avoided if emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel cars on the road had matched levels measured in the lab".

    These two types of emission must be viewed separately. While small particles are solid particles in the size of less than
    • by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2017 @12:33AM (#55223755) Homepage

      As usual, you can't just assume it's that simple. PM2.5 particles can also be formed by chemical processes from precursor NOx emissions, adding to the levels from direct emissions.

      In fact, according to this study [epa.gov], secondary formation of PM2.5 from NOx emissions can be surprisingly high:

      Based on an analysis of the composition of the PM2.5 measured in the United States, the percentages of the PM2.5 formed by precursor NOx and VOC compounds is quite variable. The portion of PM2.5 comprised of all secondary components (sulfates, nitrates, ammonium, organic carbon) varies anywhere from 30% to 90% of all PM2.5.

      • I am not sure about your definition of "surprisingly high", but attributing half of deaths caused by small particles to NOx emissions is just laughable.
      • In fact, according to this study, secondary formation of PM2.5 from NOx emissions can be surprisingly high:

        Sure, but according to that study, formation of PM2.5 from VOC precursors (m-xylene and toluene are called out as the most common culprits) is a more serious problem than formation of PM2.5 from NOx precursors. And guess which technology spews more VOCs into the air? Yep, it's gasoline. Further, all of the PM2.5 created by reacting NOx with the atmosphere is shorter-lived than the carbon soot that gasoline and diesel vehicles produce in roughly equal proportion to the amount of fuel burned — virtually

        • Do you have any further reading on that? I'm curious about comparative numbers.

          In any case, we're fast approaching the point where the tradeoff won't be necessary anymore, so hopefully we can start saving some of the 2-3 million lives lost each year to PM2.5 effects.

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Monday September 18, 2017 @11:40PM (#55223627)
    Does their deceit about the emissions levels on VW diesel engines, that contributes to deaths, lead to any criminal charges? Nope. Just fines and a round of golf. Corporations have no true accountability when the leaders get to go home and a lonely engineer is set up to take the fall.
    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2017 @01:40AM (#55223909)

      Yeah they all get off free.

      Oh except for the VW executive who was arrested at the airport while on holiday and has been stuck in jail for the past 1/3rd of the year.

      And the 5 other senior executives who also have been had criminal cases brought against them, though currently they are in Germany so if the USA wants to do something it will have to be via extradition.

      Don't let that ruin your narrative though.

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      Remember it's not just VW, it's a lot of car companies. This is the same as: benchmarks for GPUs optimising for certain demos, but not actually giving you better performance. But in this case it's actually illegal or at the least immoral what they were doing.

    • Just fines and a round of golf

      I saw what you did there....

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Since VW cheated on NOx emissions (questionable whether that is actually a harmful pollutant) but performs quite well on particulates, I'm not sure which way the blame should go.

      Evidently, the authors of the study were not sure either, flip-flopping from NOx to particulate claims. Diesels optimized for low particulate levels tend to produce more NOx and vice versa. But when one is writing sensationalist articles, I suppose it's important to cover all the buzzwords.

  • The amount is 10x that when the pollution abatement algorithm of the car's ECM sn't running :)
  • Hate to say it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by skam240 ( 789197 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2017 @01:08AM (#55223829)

    I hate to say it but so what? I tend to be on the left environmentally but that statistic is not compelling at all. Five thousand people out of the hundreds of millions in Europe die early deaths because of diesel emissions? Far more deaths can be attributed to all kinds of every day things then that.

    I think significantly altering our atmosphere is a bad idea and I like clean air and all but that statistic isn't compelling in the least.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      If someone sold food products that killed 5000 people a year, not to mention all the others who didn't die but got sick, it would be a big deal.

      That's what happened here. If they hadn't cheated on the emissions tests, 5000 people a year wouldn't die. Killing people through negligence is not acceptable, let alone killing them by deliberately cheating on safety tests.

      • If someone sold food products that killed 5000 people a year...

        Deaths from food-borne illness is 10 times that number.
        Reducing it by an order of magnitude would be a big deal, but not in the way you seem to imply.

    • Statistics stack, as do reasons for doing something. This by itself is no reason for concern, however it is just yet another thing in a list of reasons why we should be moving away from the ICE.

      Just because there are children starving to death in Africa doesn't mean I'm not going to solve my personal hunger issue at dinner time.

  • Without agreeing to or objecting to the specific number of deaths per year attributable to cheating on environmental testing compliance, it would appear that Brad Kuhn (former Exec. Dir. of the Free Software Foundation, current Distinguished Technologist at the Software Freedom Conservancy) was right in his article "Software Freedom Doesn't Kill People, Your Security Through Obscurity Kills People [ebb.org]":

    I heard a talk today from a company representative of a software supplier for the automotive industry. He said

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Tuesday September 19, 2017 @05:13AM (#55224295)

    The real reason we have a lot of Diesel cars in Europe is because of taxes.
    Gasoline is taxed more than diesel and cars tend to consume more. People are quick to do the maths and opt for the more economical solution, especially those who drive a lot.

    • Most people severely underestimate just how much bigger your driving needs have to be, in order for diesel to actually make sense. Firstly, diesel engine cars tend to be significantly more expensive, and they usually require more expensive service, higher-grade engine oil, AdBlue for modern low-emission designs and other expenses compared to gasoline engine cars.

      Secondly, diesel engines just don't work for short trips. They take longer to warm up to operating temperature, and until that happens, they pollut

      • My 1982 300SD with OM617 does take a little while to warm up. But the 2006 Sprinter 2500 with OM647 warms up plenty fast, at least as quick as my 1998 A8 Quattro.

        • The gauge probably moves to the "warm" position relatively quickly, but modern temperature gauges are basically just fancy-looking idiot lights. You should look at the actual oil temp sensor, which can be accessed through the OBD port.

          • The gauge probably moves to the "warm" position relatively quickly, but modern temperature gauges are basically just fancy-looking idiot lights.

            The gauge on my Audi is an idiot light, but it still shows you when you have come up to temp faithfully, the needle just won't move until you're already close to overheating. The gauge on the Sprinter appears to actually work correctly at all times; it's spectacularly unusual for diesel pickups (and vans) to have an idiot light temp gauge because it is common for people to actually run those vehicles near the limits of their capabilities. And in any case, they don't move to the warm position until the vehic

    • by Whibla ( 210729 )

      The real reason ... is because ... Gasoline is taxed more than diesel...

      And what reason, do you think, explains why governments reduced that tax on diesel?

      (I'll give you a clue: incentivise behaviour you want to see more of.)

      • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

        And what reason, do you think, explains why governments reduced that tax on diesel?

        The most convincing reason I've heard is that originally, it was a way for the government to tax personal cars more than trucks. Cars used gas and truck use diesel so that was an effective solution.
        You see, personal cars are for a large part run with disposable income, where trucks are an essential part of the economy, which mean they can't tax them as much before being disruptive. Furthermore, long haul trucks have range that allows them to take advantage of lower prices in foreign countries, which creates

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      The real reason we have a lot of Diesel cars in Europe is because of taxes.
      Gasoline is taxed more than diesel and cars tend to consume more. People are quick to do the maths and opt for the more economical solution, especially those who drive a lot.

      This, it's also mainly historical in many countries. Excise on diesel fuels in the UK is the same for petrol and diesel at 57.95 pence per litre.

      Countries in Europe are slowly equalising petrol and diesel fuel taxes. The UK did years ago, the French are doing so this year, Germany is likely to follow. However over here people are still in the mindset that Diesel == cheap despite that not being the case any more. It will take some time for this to change but it will eventually change, the diesel passenger ca

  • Should make a study about Diesel trucks, especially in the US where trucks have barely any emissions restrictions.
    • You're completely full of shit about that claim.

      The US has a TON of emission requirements on diesels. That includes commercial heavy trucks. In fact all new diesel engines have been modified in such a what they just won't run AT ALL on older style lower surfer diesel. It actually caused a real headache for about a year back in about '09 when they refineries in Memphis couldn't keep up production of the new fuel, and people couldn't get enough ultra low diesel that was safe to run in their new model of ca

  • The article seems to mix small particle and NOx emissions in a way that is confusing. These are two very different forms of pollution. It doesn't appear there is a link to the original study, unless I've missed it. I would lean to the microparticle pollution being the cause of the deaths.
  • An older story from 500K, back when the US was in peak Climate Alarmisim.

    http://fortune.com/2015/11/30/diesel-emissions-deaths-europe-ee/

    At the end of the day the only thing that this latest study proves is that you can still literally make anything say anything with the right kind of half baked study. Especially when you take into account that a lot of EU nations use way more diesel powered personal vehicle than the US and other nation states or blocks do.

  • Please check other causes of death.
    The numbers mentioned here for diesel cars are nowhere near those.
    Also the study fails to mention the benefits of diesel cars that outweigh insignificant death numbers.
    5000 in Europe, that is over 742 million people or so. (see wikipedia)
    With how many dieing from other things? smoking? bad diets? falling down the stairs? pills abuse? alcohol? cancer?
    You get the idea.
    • So, what's required to eliminate other sources of death? In this case, it looks like emission regulations that aren't cheated on would save 5K lives a year. Is it worth it?

  • How many lives are saved per yer simply due to modern technology. Trucks bring products to build generating stations that provide electricity that allows for advanced research into medicines, fresh food available all the time, cars allow deathly ill people to reach hospitals in time before they die, refrigeration keeps people from getting sick, cell phones allow you to call for help when you're in danger, everything we take for granted as simple "creature comforts" are actually prolonging our lives. You kno

  • Contribute To Over 5,000 Premature Rapings a Year In Just One Country In Europe, Says Study.
  • You'd think the "world is overpopulated" bunch would love this! With 5,000 per year, along with the other deaths, the overpopulation problem will resolve itself!!!

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