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Fake Science

In 2014, as evidence mounted about the harmful effects of diesel exhaust on human health, scientists in an Albuquerque laboratory conducted an unusual experiment: Ten monkeys squatted in airtight chambers, watching cartoons for entertainment as they inhaled fumes from a diesel Volkswagen Beetle.

German automakers had financed the experiment in an attempt to prove that diesel vehicles with the latest technology were cleaner than the smoky models of old. But the American scientists conducting the test were unaware of one critical fact: The Beetle provided by Volkswagen had been rigged to produce pollution levels that were far less harmful in the lab than they were on the road.

The results were being deliberately manipulated. ...
The company admitted to installing software in vehicles that enabled them to cheat on emissions tests. But legal proceedings and government records show that Volkswagen and other European automakers were also engaged in a prolonged, well-financed effort to produce academic research that they hoped would influence political debate and preserve tax privileges for diesel fuel. ...
Margaret Douglas, the chairwoman of a panel that advises the Scottish public health system on pollution issues, compared the automakers’ behavior to the tobacco industry. Just as the tobacco companies promoted nicotine addiction, Ms. Douglas said, the carmakers lobbied for tax breaks that made European drivers dependent on diesel.

“There are a lot of parallels between the industries in the way they try to downplay the harm and encourage people to become addicted,” Ms. Douglas said. ...
The carmakers maintained that modern technology had solved diesel’s big downside: emissions of nitrogen oxides and fine soot particles that can contribute to asthma, heart attacks and cancer. ...
“We were all misled by the car manufacturers,” Mr. King said in an interview.
The toll on public health has become impossible to ignore. In 2012, 72,000 people in Europe died prematurely because of nitrogen dioxide pollution, which comes primarily from diesel vehicles, according to a report released last year by a committee of the European Parliament.
Research sponsored by industry “all has the same fundamental aim,” said Joachim Heinrich, an environmental health expert at the University of Munich who has spent his career studying the effects of air pollution, “namely to weaken or discredit regulation — to say ‘the evidence is not that clear,’ ‘we shouldn’t take it so seriously,’ ‘we need to think more about it.’”
- JACK EWING, 10 Monkeys and a Beetle: Inside VW’s Campaign for ‘Clean Diesel’, NYT, JAN. 25, 2018



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