Eric Peters: The anti-diesel jihad expands

By Eric Peters

For reasons that aren’t inscrutable (give me a minute – I’ll explain) the jihadagainst diesels  is metastasizing to include FiatChrysler.

The combine – which subsumes the Jeep and Ram truck brands – has been accused of selling diesels that emit “as much as 20 times” the maximum allowable quantity of an exhaust byproduct, oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

This is exactly what got VW nailed to the cross. And it’s exactly the same demagogic coverage. “As much as 20 times” the allowable maximum!

Good god, it sounds apocalyptic! A lung-melting catastrophe!

Except of course it’s not.

A bureaucratic standard may have been affronted – that is all.

Note the “as much as . . .” verbiage. As in, could be – or might be. As opposed to something exact.

Weasel words, the sort of copy an advertising shyster would use to hawk a product that didn’t actually do a damned thing but the words implied it did because it might. It is of a piece with third-empty cereal boxes – the box itself meant to make you think you are getting what you just paid for.

Only, it’s worse, because in this case there is nothing in the box.

Nothing in whole numbers, that is.

As in the VW crucifixion, the standard affronted amounts to a difference of less than half of one percent. If you don’t know this, you don’t know your Tiers and Bins – EPA-speak for the various levels and thresholds for allowable exhaust emissions. The difference between one Tier and Bin and the next is fractional.

I bold this out of exasperation.Because it is never explained by the media. Search for yourself and see. It is outrageous, a monstrous dereliction of duty. Because with explanation, without qualification, the “as much as 20 times” business creates an egregiously false impression.

People have been grossly misled about the extent to which new cars do not pollute. The whole aim of practical politics, as H.L. Mencken once said, is to menace the public with dangers – all of them false – so as to instill in them a hysterical fear and make them clamorous to be led to safety.

Exactly so.

Most new cars with gas engines qualify as Partial Zero Emissions (PZEV) under the EPA’s Tiers and Bins – that is to say, they emit almost nothing offensive to human health. And recent-issue diesel-powered cars are within hair-splitting difference of that standard. But because they fall on the other side of the hair – so claims the EPA, at any rate – they must be extirpated.

Well, EPA doesn’t actually say that – but the Tiers and Bins will end up having the same effect: Outlaw diesels by regulatory fiat. Make it impossible to design and build a diesel engine that qualifies for the latest Tiers and Bins while also still being priced such that people would actually be interested in possibly buying the thing and while also delivering the attributes – high mileage and lower over-the-road maintenance costs – that make people interested in diesel engines, regardless of price. 

This is becoming not possible.

It is why Mercedes just pulled out of the diesel market in the U.S. You can no longer buy the excellent BlueTec turbo-diesel in models like the E-Class sedan and several other Benz models that formerly offered it. Not because it doesn’t meet the current Tiers and Bins – but because Mercedes decided it won’t be possible to meet the next round of Tiers and Bins, the next splitting of hairs, without either unacceptable costs or unacceptable functional gimps that buyers won’t tolerate.

Mazda is supposed to be offering the Sky-D diesel if sells everywhere else sometime next year in models like the CX5, a small crossover SUV – after more than two years of withholding it. But don’t hold your breath. The Tiers and Bins.

So, why?

I think because diesels actually work.

Economically work.

Unlike, say, electric cars – which are given every form of automotive affirmative action conceivable, including massive subsidies as well as a Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy with regard to the very real “environmental impact” of these things – which can be measured in whole numbers.

They are economically preposterous.

A modern turbo-diesel powered car, on the other hand, can be manufactured and sold for around $21,000 (VW did exactly that until EPA stomped them).

It can also deliver near-hybrid fuel economy, without the extra cost of the hybrid technology – negating the hybrid’s slight mileage advantage. For example, last week I test drove the 2017 Toyota Prius hybrid. It achieved about 56.2 MPG, which is excellent. However, the last VW Jetta TDI I test drove – before VW had to jerk them off the market – achieved 51 MPG. The diesel VWs routinely exceeded the EPA mileage numbers touted.

When you take into account the Toyota’s price tag – which is about $2,500 higher than the VW’s – the 5-ish MPG advantage the hybrid has is a wash, as far as economics.

Ans the Prius is the only hybrid that gets that kind of mileage. Or costs only a couple thousand more than a car like the TDI-powered Jetta.

The Chevy Volt costs $33,200 – about $11k more than the TDI Jetta.

A Tesla electric car is even more economically preposterous – as are all electric cars.

It begs the question – why are they being pushed so hard when they are economically preposterous? Of what use is a “zero emissions” (not!) electric car that very few people could afford to drive? How does it “save the planet” or “reduce the carbon footprint” for a tiny handful – in terms of the general population – of affluent people to motor around in $40k-plus electric cars?

The answer, of course, is that it does neither.

But that is not the true object of the exercise. Which, I have come to believe, is to make it very, very costly to motor – which will have the effect of making it an indulgence of the affluent while the Masses take the bus.

Diesel power is a problem for this agenda because it isn’t economically idiotic. High efficiency and a low price means problem solved. . .  if the problem is vehicles that use “too much” fuel, as the ruling class constantly singsongs about.

Because diesels are both efficient and affordable, they represent an affront to hybrid and electric vehicles which are neither. They are a pebble in the shoe of the people pushing an agenda very different from the one publicly spoken of.

This isn’t about economy. It is about mobility.

It is about restricting mobility.

Diesels aren’t dirty – not by any standard based on that which can be measured in the form of measurable harm caused to actual human beings. It is telling that the government isn’t required to adduce such harm before it issues it fatwas. Instead, it merely hypothesizes “risks” – which are not subject to evidentiary scrutiny, which never have to be proved, and which are almost never dissected by the lazy/owned (take your pick) media. Which instead uses guaranteed-to-rile-the-masses terms such as “spewed pollution” in a news story about FiatChrysler’s purported tailpipe sins.

It all makes sense – but only if you gaze upon it from a different perspective. When you do, it all becomes crystal clear.

Bins, Tiers and all.   



Eric Peters is the automotive columnist for the Southern Arizona News-Examiner. Visit his website for all things automotive at


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