This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
I have to agree that this only seems to be a big deal because the Management of VW have allowed it to become a big deal. Who can guess why?
According to some press reports this particular scare story is based on a report of some vehicle testing that was undertaken 2 or 3 yeasr ago and the report has been in the public domain for at least 18 months.
VW were, so the lead author indicated, involved at the time of the testing.
The EPA (and the rest of the world including any vaguely conscious consumer) must have been well aware that there were likely to be concerted attempts by the manufacturer's engineers to "tune" the cars to the rules of the test. That, after all, is what test are for.
Create a bad test (or perhaps a deliberately loose one) and smart people will work out how to "make it work".
So why now for the big showdown?
Well, the EPA has a big cock-up to cover up. So they have a vested interest in discovering a White Hat to wear.
The secondary QE the the American economy has been experiencing form Bank fines and the BP Gulf mess will be likely coming to a close soon (for now) so they need some other sources of "inward investment".
As luck would have it there's the Big Green Jamboree in Paris very soon and the pre-meeting for that is (or has been already?) in Bonn, Germany.
How embarrassing could one make that?
Presumably the US is fairly confident that General Motors will come out with a clean record which would perhaps boost their market share at the expense of VAG and any other delinquent not yet in the public domain.
Ford too of course, although there are whispers around that they may be implicated and of course they did not take taxpayer's money in the US to avoid business failure so their relationship with Government might not be quite so cosy as it possibly is for GM.
More to the point perhaps I don't think GM or Ford (or possibly anyone else) would have much of a market for small diesel engined cars in the USA. It's not an obvious historical market for diesel other than commercial vehicles and as I recall the VAG market share for diesel is quite small as a percentage of the total.
I can't help but feel that there could be and very likely are a whole host of ulterior motives in play at this point - another example a perfect storm.
In a wider context the USA would be very well aware of the potential effect a little stirring could have on the European export trade and timing some trouble to coincide with the Euro's relative weakness and the immigration challenges, especially from the Middle East, could be seen as a very opportunistic strategy.
I have read that the new EU/US trade agreement has been a somewhat challenging negotiation so far. If that is the case a surprise attack on a high visibility European Engineering leader might be just the thing to obtain agreement that might otherwise prove impossible. And of course at the same time set the scene and the rules of engagement for decades to come.
What puzzles me is why the VAG board - and European "leaders", business and political - seem to ready to be rolled over at the first hint of an issue rather than defend themselves.
Maybe it is simply easier to get out with one's pension fund and let the replacements take the beatings and then, if they are smart enough and have reset the bonus and share option allocation rules for the post trauma era, make their fortunes in much the same way that the departed made theirs. It would probably offer the incomers a far better potential for becoming truly wealthy then had they been appointed to follow a successful period without the possibility of a reset.
I don't suppose the entire picture will ever become known to mere mortals.
The point here is that under the relentless pressure of the NGOs and other green organisations which seem to wield far more than a democratic influence, limits are set which have no relation to the benefits they will derive nor whether or not they can be achieved. Indeed it seems the real objective is to set limits that cannot be achieved since that is the best way to bring down western society and then remake it in the "New World Order" mould they want.
What this means is that either car manufacturers cheat or they switch to making bicycles.
A UK study (designed to inform policy makers) for the government some time ago reported that nowhere in the UK were particulates above the safe levels except briefly and occasionally in some locations close to major arteries and at peak traffic times.
Of course, the original draft report, written objectively in neutral language that talked about all cause cardiovascular diseases where whole life exposure had some effect on life expectancy, has probably since been published politicised and using emotive language and talking not about a few weeks less life for a few people with a life time exposure but of deaths as if they caught a whiff of cyanide). Note that they are talking about the number of NOX deaths per year and expect this number to increase as the debate heats up exactly as it has done with the "activist scientist" (that modern phenomenon) authored reports on Marine pollution and complete with the obligatory multiple computer models.
There is somewhere a Rockefeller report on trans-boundary migration of pollution and the factors necessary to creating workable treaties which, in the EU and with the EPA, are conspicuously all broken.
Good treaties means getting the consent of all to effective reasonable and affordable agreements that can be veried and enforced.