By on November 12, 2009

Take that, Mother Nature!

There’s all kinds of controversy over what makes a car “green” and what doesn’t. Some point to size and efficiency, crucifying Hummers and full-size trucks as criminals against the planet. Others point to lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, battery-component mining pollution and other less-obvious measures to excoriate hybrids. In any case, TTAC’s scientific department isn’t well-funded enough to issue a comprehensive report on the subject. Forbes may not have tested cars itself, or dug into true “dust-to-dust” footprints, but it’s gone ahead and published a list of “America’s Dirtiest Vehicles” anyway. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The article claims that to search out  “America’s Dirtiest Vehicle” by using air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions data from the EPA. The EPA air pollution data is ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the cleanest, 1 being dirty. “Air pollution” criteria are compounds like unburnt hydrocarbons, NOx fumes, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. And you thought smoking was a dirty habit! Greenhouse gases are done on the same 1 to 10 scale and are evaluated by measuring, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions, which means the car’s fuel economy comes into play here. Less miles, more fuel burnt. More fuel burnt, more greenhouse gases emitted. In the event of a tie, they used combined fuel consumption figures to break the deadlock.

The article then goes on to its small print, namely, the vehicles which were excluded. Vehicles which were classed as “heavy duty” were exempt from this report because these vehicles aren’t subject to federal fuel economy requirements. Also missing were “super cars”; the reason being that they sell in such small volumes, it’s not worth counting them in. Saabs sell in small numbers, but I bet you they got put in this report.

So after setting out the parameters and established who’s being evaluated and who isn’t, what’s the result?

Well, according to Forbes, America’s dirtiest is . . . the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Yes, for once, Chrysler comes top in a survey. It scored 3 out of 10 for air pollution ratings and 2 out of 10 for greenhouse gas emissions. But the report decided to stick the boot in further buy saying “Even had we included those supercars, though, the Jeep Grand Cherokee still would have topped the chart.” Ouch! Not content with giving the Cherokee a battering, the report then deals its killer blow. “The flex-fuel engine—prized because it uses a renewable resource that reduces dependency on traditional gasoline—on the Cherokee was even worse: three out of 10 and one out of 10 for the air pollution and gas emissions, respectively.” That’s gotta hurt!

It then gets even worse for Chrysler, because not only did they secure top spot by a mile (insert your own MPG joke here), they also got a further four places in top ten. The Dodge Durango came in 10th, the Dodge Ram 1500 came in 9th, the Dodge Dakota came in 8th and the Chrysler Aspen came in 7th.

“We continue to drive our fleet average even lower,” Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa, who was given the unenviable job of putting a positive spin on this report, said. “Chrysler Group products are 99% cleaner than vehicles of 30 years ago and meet or exceed United States federal emission standards, the most stringent in the world.” Reports of whether Mr. Cappa went into another room and burst into tears are unfounded.

The report then goes on to mention the rest of the top ten. “60% of the entries on our list are from domestic automakers. The remainder are German”. The other “dirty domestic” was the Chevrolet Trailblazer, which came in 4th. The list in full can be seen here.

Chrysler can take some heart in the knowledge that at least their electric and hybrid car plans will give them some much needed green credent—oh. Never mind then.

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33 Comments on “Forbes Lists “America’s Dirtiest Cars”...”

  • avatar

    There are times when a man just has to waste some resources, dirty the air, and generally behave in an anti-social manner.

    And the car for those times is my 1970 Cadillac Eldorado. Consume non-renewable resopurces? The 500 CID (8.2 litre, on the badges) has you covered. Pollute the air? Well, 8.2 litres with a 4 barrel carburetor does just fine. And grinding the front tires to dust in 6000 miles is just the icing onthe cake.
    What could be more anti-social than driving a 19 foot long car with only 2 doors, and lighting up the front tires (yes, it’s a front wheel drive car) at every light?

    Jeep and Chrysler have a long ways to go.


    • 0 avatar

      relton, I hate to break it to you, but you are driving one of the greenest cars there is – one that has already been built.  Your Eldo has not caused the lighting of a single flourescent fixture or the firing of a single boiler in a manufacturing plant since the 70s.  You, sir, are one wild and funloving ecologist.  A number of years ago, I was just like you, being green with my 11 mpg 68 Chrysler Newport.  Now, I make do in a Crown Victoria.  It gets better mileage, but the power steering leaks, so it is a wash.

      You have me so excited about our common ecological goodness that I just may have to light the charcoal grill I bought in 1984 and smoke a cigar while I sip on scotch whiskey from a glass bottle.

  • avatar

    Funny…I actually want a Jeep more now…

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The big news here is that Forbes magazine is now on the record saying CO2 emissions are at least as objectionable as CO, HC and NOx.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually they are saying that CO2 emissions are more objectionable as fuel mileage was used as a tie breaker.  CO2 emissions and fuel mileage are different sides of the same coin.

    • 0 avatar

      CO2 isn’t as innocent as some want to believe. If it’s emitted on farm, fine, it will be aborbed by plants. But if it’s emitted in a downtown area, it will get trapped and cause the local temperature to rise. Which, in turn, will result in more energy spent to run AC’s. If you look at some major city centers, they are typically 5~10 cecius degrees warmer than its surrounding suburbs.

  • avatar

    Well, if it gives them something to build a list around, why not?

  • avatar

    The author of this TTAC post should point out that every Chrysler model mentioned on that list was an ethanol model, which no doubt contributed to the low mileage numbers, among other things.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why Chrysler’s V8s would be any dirtier than any other manufacturers’ comparable engines. They all have to meet the same emissions standards.

    • 0 avatar

      Obviously, that standard is very low.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J. Stern

      Yes, they all have to meet the same standard, but that does not mean they’re all equally clean and efficient. The standard, like all emissions and safety standards, is the maximum allowable emission level. If the standard says no more than n g/mi of a particular pollutant, then a vehicle emitting 0.99n is just as compliant as a vehicle emitting 0.09n.

  • avatar

    The Durango, Aspen, and Dakota are all essentially the same vehicle.  The Durango and Aspen truly are, minus trim, and the Dakota is built off the same platform.  I have reason to believe that every Chrysler vehicle listed is powered by the 4.7L V8, as well.  Good thing they’re getting rid of that engine.
    There’s a similar situation with the Trailblazer and the 9-7x.

  • avatar

    That score represents the “relative global warming potential of each car,” the EPA says.
    There goes the EPA, perpetuating the mythology of global warming because it has been put in charge of regulating it.  They can’t have us get an inkling that their power is an illusion.
    Read my lips, EPA (and Forbes): THERE IS NO CORRELATION OF ATMOSPHERIC CO2 LEVELS TO GLOBAL TEMPERATURE. NONE. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA.  Any study that claims to show such a thing has been debunked, defrauded, and buried.  This concept is only being promoted by politicians, political organizations, and the periodicals who parrot their press releases. The U.S. temperature has not changed since the advent of the SUV. Our current annual mean temperatures sit at the 100-year average.

    • 0 avatar


      I’d love to see the source of you claims?

      according to wikipedia
      The finding that the climate has warmed in recent decades and that this warming is likely attributable to human influence has been endorsed by every national science academy that has issued a statement on climate change, including the science academies of all of the major industrialized countries. At present, no scientific body of national or international standing has issued a dissenting statement. A small minority of professional associations have issued noncommittal statements.

    • 0 avatar

      Quoting pop-sci Wikipedia on scientific issues: Priceless.
      I’m a scientist and a mathematician and I understand the issues, the proxies, that statistics, and the rampant academic fraud commited for grant money. But this is not the place for it. All YOU have to be able to do right now is read a thermometer and use common sense. As I said, our current annual average temperatures over the last several years are the same as the 100-year average. A 30-year old person today has not known global warming, because the temperature is the same now as in 1979. CO2 goes up, while temp goes down, and vice versa. It was warmer in the 1930’s than the 2000’s. Remember the dust bowl? NO correlation to SUVs. Remember the Vikings living and farming in Greenland for 500 years, a thousand years ago? You can’t do that  now because it’s too cold. No Viking SUV’s back then either.
      My next car is going to be a V8. Although I’m waffling on the supercharger.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you for some perspective.

  • avatar

    Well, since I have an

    "I ‘heart’ my carbon footprint"

     bumper sticker on my car, I won’t bother to comment further.

  • avatar

    As has been pointed out, all the Chrysler vehicles are ethanol with their mileage penalty, and has also been pointed out, the ethanol models all have large engines to make up for the lower energy value of ethanol. Three of the five Chrysler models are also 4-wheel drive with it’s own mileage penalty, and have auto transmissions too. The EPA does buy into not only global man-made warming, but that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, both highly disputed in scientific circles.
    My conclusion is that Forbes produced yet another useless auto list. If they keep it up, they’ll exceed womens’ magazines’ “relationship tests” for sheer inanity.

  • avatar

    Looks like the Dodge vehicles are all using the same engine and this is the flex fuel rating.  The BMW, Mercedes, and Trailblazer are all the biggest engines that come in those vehicles, which don’t sell very well.  I think it would have been better if they did a decent job of saying which engine the vehicles were equipped with instead of  saying, these vehicles are all bad.

  • avatar

    I don’t have a carbon footprint, I drive everywhere. :)

  • avatar

    Beating a dead horse is a national sport over there? Sheez

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I’m all for piling on a crappy car company as much as anyone else but the constant kvetching about the discontinued Aspen and Durango is getting a tad old.

      I mean, seriously, are there any new ones left on a dealer’s lot, anywhere?

  • avatar

    Flag this one with “I don’t give a NSFW” and move on. Forbes automotive lists are worth about as much as a Playboy centerfold’s IQ. People buying the vehicles on this list aren’t really looking to improve their carbon footprint —which, incedentally, is probably the buzz phrase that pisses me off the most these days— so what does it really matter? If I need, or want, an SUV then I’ll buy it based on how it will suit my needs. If I want to be environmentally conscious, I’ll buy a damn hybrid.

  • avatar

    Hybrids are green?
    1. Mine nickel  in Canada
    2. Ship it to Germany for processing
    3. Ship processed nickel to China to make batteries
    4. Ship batteries to Japan to be put in cars
    Seems like a huge carbon footprint to me.

    • 0 avatar

      Come to Alberta and see what petroleum mining can do to the Earth!  Nickel only needs to be mined once and then recycled – petroleum is gone for good once it’s shat out of your SUV’s tailpipe.

  • avatar

    Waste must be a national sport in the USA and it’s finally catching up as unaffordable and unsustainable.

  • avatar

    No, PeteMoran, the waste is just a byproduct of the real national sport: Anti-intellectualism. Evolution, Vaccines, Global Warming, Moon Landings. All just inventions of those evil scientists.

  • avatar

    For the Wikipedia glowbull warming scientists, let us check out the U.S. temperature for the past 100+ years. From the National Climatic Data Center.  I encourage you to find your own CO2 graphs from a reputable source. Then re-explain the wiki assertions.
    Hmm, it’s getting colder. I believe that I will spend Saturday re-igniting my dormant 454.  Just gotta replace some fluids, lube the cylinders, spill a little hi-test into the Holley barrels, stir the 4-speed stick and roar off.  I wonder if my cowl induction still works?

    • 0 avatar

      Glanton. NOTHING about climate change is proven one way or the other.
      If nothing else, you should surely be doing the patriotic thing by reducing your foreign oil consumption to help the US B’ of P’ and therby also helping clean up the disgusting air quality of many US cities.
      Currently I more or less subscribe to this vein of thought….proposed by Bjorn Lomborg. GW exists (not sure if it us doing it) , but we (they in power) are not making smart choices about how to deal with it…Apart from by taxing cheap energy, the building block of the developed world…,,4711770,00.html
      or in Forbes on 9/21/09

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know why I’m bothering, but;

      Top 11 Warmest Years On Record Have All Been In Last 13 Years

      Global Ocean Surface Temperature Warmest On Record For June

    • 0 avatar

      JGlanton: from the very same source as your mean US temperature graph:

      Global surface temperatures have increased about 0.74°C (plus or minus 0.18°C) since the late-19th century, and the linear trend for the past 50 years of 0.13°C (plus or minus 0.03°C) per decade is nearly twice that for the past 100 years. The warming has not been globally uniform. Some areas (including parts of the southeastern U.S. and parts of the North Atlantic) have, in fact, cooled slightly over the last century. The recent warmth has been greatest over North America and Eurasia between 40 and 70°N. Lastly, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1995.

      I highlighted a statement that may help to explain the temperature graph you linked to.  Please note that the term is “Global” warming.  The US, contrary to what many seem to believe, is not the world.

      From the same site:
      Human activity has been increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (mostly carbon dioxide from combustion of coal, oil, and gas; plus a few other trace gases). There is no scientific debate on this point.

      Feel free to quibble with the contribution human-caused CO2 makes to global warming, but to deny the global temperature trend is up and to deny that humans have increased the concentration of atmospheric CO2 (I’m not claiming that you have made this argument) is nothing less than willful ignorance.  Pointing to US-specific temperature data to back up your point is worse: it is willful ignorance mixed with parochialism.

  • avatar

    I don’t know why I’m bothering, but;
    No really, you shouldn’t have. This science moves quickly and quoting old magazine articles in non-productive. Quoting the MET is kind of a joke in climate science circles. Quoting a three year old, debunked BS report that is utterly false is even worse. They don’t use real measured temperatures at the MET, they use fraudulent computer simulations that earn them more government payola. They made the 1930’s cooler in their computers, and the 1990’s warmer. But their own thermometers tell a different story and they ignore them. They use cherry-picked proxies.  They use a single russian tree proxy at an 8-sigma deviation and tell us the world has a hockey stick curve when the rest of the trees say that we don’t.   Really, you shouldn’t have bothered, until you catch up.

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