Sins of Emission

In response to Volkswagon being caught cheating in their computerized emissions testing by the EPA in 2015.

To the Editor of the Island Sun, Sanibel, FL:

Sir, Madam, or Other,

So it’s Oxides of Nitrogen, NOx to the cognoscenti, that they were cheating on!

Well!  Pretty nasty stuff. Makes you sneeze or worse depending on which one you sniff. But not all of ’em are nasty. There’s N2O, Nitrous Oxide  that the venerable Sir Humphrey Davey discovered, In seventeen-sumpty-or-other, took a whiff of, and appalled his laboratory staff by dancing around the lab giggling like a common idiot. Nowadays it’s called laughing gas, a favorite of your dentist, and outside the dentist’s chair, if you can get a hold of some, it’s a great party icebreaker,  if you’re looking for giggling idiots!   Not so the other NOxes, NO, NO2 and N2O4. Nitric Oxide, (NO) doesn’t hang around for long in the presence of free Oxygen (like in air) before turning into NO2, Nitrogen dioxide, or N2O4, di-nitrogen tetroxide, (never could tell the difference).  But both are extremely nasty brown gasses that, at concentrations of a couple of parts per million (ppm to the Rubes), a whiff will start you sneezing like a hound in a pepper mill and anything more will have you coughing, gagging and weeping like a penitent at the feast of Ashura.. Oops! I take that back, don’t mean to offend any devout flagellants! Can’t be too careful these days, the way they dish out those Fatwas.

But I digress. It’s no laughing matter, there’s a lot of NOxes out there and it’s not all cheating  two-timing  VW diesels, or Beamers, Audis, Fords or Chryslers. No! It’s not even the froggy French outfit  that makes most of the the diesels for the aforementioned and more than their combined output. No!   It’s Mother Nature, Gaia, God, or Zeus with his thunderbolts, depending on your religious preference.  Yep! You got it!         


If one can believe the raw ( that is..’uncorrected’) satellite data, there are an average of 100  discharges per second worldwide… Yes a hundred a second!!  And if you’ve ever been close enough to a lightning strike to make you jump out of your seat, you may have noticed a brown cloud surrounding the strike zone. That’s NO2.  Being highly soluble it dissolves quickly in water, which tends to be plentiful during thunderstorms, and bingo! We have nitric acid rain (typically ph 5+/-) even without a nearby sulphur dioxide spewing power station chimney to blame!  

Now it’s hard to know what to believe anymore, even if it’s on GoogleWicki, but they say there’s as much as 7,000 tons a day of Nitrates raining down on us, more or less than all the Ammonium Nitrate produced to fertilize farmer’s fields…..when it’s not in trucks blowing up buildings in Oklahoma or  in French ships flattening towns like Halifax, Nova Scotia (1917), and Texas City (1947).  Honest! I kid you not, both cities were leveled by French ships loaded with Ammonium Nitrate made in USA and destined for munitions in Europe!  The Halifax explosion at 2.9 kilotons was the biggest bang until the atomic bomb.

Now none of this has much to do with members of the Volkswagen tribe: Beetles, Passats, Siroccos and such, except perhaps to throw a little perspective on the severity of their sin.  There is little doubt  that like BP, they will pay their pound of flesh, or more likely, being of the metric persuasion, their kilogram$ of flesh.

It’s hard to quantify the gravity of their transgression since no data is offered in the media so one must make do with the howls of outrage from high places, tinged, I suspect, with the scent of money, much money, in the form of fines and punitive damages.

Now killing two birds with one stone is the ambition of all slingshot hunters, especially those who are short on stones;  and VW managed to do it,  meeting EPA emission requirements AND their cafe mpg mandates  with a single computer program. Never mind the wickedness of cheating, there’s innovation at work here and innovation is the catalyst of evolution and its sibling: progress.

There are some who advocate redemption;  after confession, contrition and penance which likely will run into Billion$.   And then there are those who suffer from guilt by association, and it is to those that I would like to address my closing remarks. If you are the victim of ownership of a nice late model Diesel VW I am prepared to assume your guilt along with your nice late model diesel VW….

Now driving a VW Variant fully loaded with canoes, bicycles and paddle boards through the eye of the EPA’s needle, is a lot easier said than done. So tradition has it that the purchase of an ‘Indulgence’ will bypass the eye of the needle and get your fully loaded VW through the main gate into Heaven.  Never mind the fact that the last Pope who got too cozy with politicians, lost half his flock to Martin Luther… who took them to Minnesota via Sweden. Help me out here, was it Incestuous the 7th or the 12th that  made the Rev. Luther post his 95 grievances on the Brandenburg gate?

But I digress, with nothing better to do, I am resurrecting the Indulgence business.

Believe me I feel your guilt. If you are the owner of a late model VW diesel and are burdened with guilt, I will relieve you of your VW and your guilt at absolutely no charge to you. Your Indulgence certificate will be valid at the Pearly Gates and is guaranteed for eternity.  

Call me at I-NDU-LGE-NCES

Yours etc.

Harvey H. Homitz

Pardoner of the Sins of Emission

P.s. According to today’s NYTimes, Porsche and Audi have been caught in the sinner’s round up so I will accept them too and expect many more in the coming days. Sin, it seems, even if not Original, is still very popular!       



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