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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fatherland - Why Do You Make It So Hard - Clean Diesel

The Clean Diesel Beetle
Eberhard is a German name - my ancestors anglicized it when they came to America and settled in Pennsylvania. They were called Pennsylvania Dutch - but I learned much later it was short for Pennsylvania Deutsch - Pennsylvania German. I was born in a Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse pasted on the north side of the Appalachian Mountains in West Penn township. For 6 years I was steeped in the Dutch lifestyle - my Dad trying to make a living off 10 acres and 40 hours a week in a coal mine.

When it came time to go to college - it was over the Blue Mountain to Kutztown State Teachers College Normal School. We referred to our football team as the Fighting Amish and enjoyed trips to the local farmer's market to enjoy their wonderful simple foods - mostly meat and potatoes. 

When it came time to buy a car - a 1956 VW Beetle convertible with 36HP - got me back and forth over the mountain - sometimes at 30 MPH. I was always attracted to classic plain and simple things - a Lindal Cedar Home Kit - button down shirts - and Apple computers. 

I had heard all about World War II - and lived through the History Channel Era of "All Hitler - All the Time." I had watched a country that we broke up into 4 pieces - to prevent another war - re-unite and become one of the world's top 3 powers again. They did this with both arms tied behind their back. 

During the war - a German U-Boat sunk the USS Norlandia of the coast of Haiti - and killed my grandfather - Roy Shartle Everhart - before I was born. Although he had more than enough of living the life of a coal miner - and left a family of 5 in a company home high and dry - he has long been forgiven by me - but never by my father. 

Lulu has recently been awarded a DAAD Fellowship by the German government. They are paying for her to study in Berlin for 3 months next year. They are getting me as a bonus. We are working hard to prepare for our stay in the Fatherland. We have already rented an apartment in Berlin - and are busy inviting friends to come to stay. I am guessing 95% of the people in Germany involved in World War II are gone. I have been doing my best to warm up to the people - now this.

Volkswagen - the world's number one car manufacturer - has been caught cheating on the emission tests of their "clean diesel engines." For the last 6 years - they have been selling cars and bragging about how efficient they are. It has been hard to believe that the diesel technology - which has historically been so dirty - could be engineered to be environmentally friendly. In 1984 - I owned a Cadillac diesel - easily the worst car I ever had. Not only was it a dog - it was noisy - smelly - and belched black smoke. The only thing good it had going for it was a giant fuel tank. Some folks I knew used to even burn home fuel oil in those engines to avoid the 50 cent a gallon road tax. But just the same - diesels had a bad rap in America. In Europe over half of the cars burn diesel.

With all that about diesels - you can see how surprised and delighted I was that my Fatherland and Volkswagen were able to clean up the terrible diesel. In my heart - it held out hope that someday we could have another oxymoron - clean burning coal. After the White Sox rigged the World Series in 1919 - a kid looked up at his favorite player - Shoeless Joe Jackson - as he left the court house. "Say it isn't so Joe."  Well it is. 

Volkswagen was caught and admitted they did it on purpose. They have rigged 11 million cars with a computer program to pass the emission tests - but only when the test machinery is hooked to them. Other times - they are spewing out harmful gasses - 40 times as bad as the test standard. The US is going to fine them over $30,000 per car. This could ad up to an $18 billion fine. This does not include any lawsuits that the buyers will file. 

When I had a Prius - I would run around and brag smugly about getting 50 miles per gallon. I would enjoy teasing my green friends about how they were big polluters. Now - I am even more over the top - driving a Nissan Leaf that uses no gasoline. I plug it into a regular power outlet and it goes 70 miles a day for "free." They figure I am getting the money equivalent of 120 MPGe. 

Can you imagine how all of these VW diesel buyers feel - paying the extra money for a diesel engine - thinking they are "saving the planet" - and now they find out they are the biggest polluters of all? I can see them lining up at the offices of ambulance chaser lawyers - getting ready to get their pound of flesh. 

We have found a new standard for the word arrogant. I can just see the engineers sitting around the table in Wolfsburg. Helmet says to Diesel - "you have to think outside of the box - we don't really have to cut emissions - we just have to pass the test." Diesel answers back - "Americans will believe anything."

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