By on March 24, 2015

diesel

As fate would have it, I was twenty-four years old before I saw Los Angeles for the first time. Prior to that, I knew nothing about SoCal besides what I could read in BMX Action! and see in movies. One thing about LA that I remembered from growing up in the Seventies was that LA was the reason for “smog laws” and the 165-horsepower Corvette and the infamous thermal-reactor Bimmers and the many evils of the C.A.R.B. I think I half-expected to see the city blanketed in fumes like the cover of Modern Vampires Of The City.

You probably know what a ridiculous half-expectation that was. The battle for clean air in California was fought, and won, long before I got my driver’s license. The number of cars operating in Los Angeles has more than doubled since my youth, but ozone in the air is just forty percent of what it was. The modern automobile is virtually an air scrubber; there’s less poison coming out of the tailpipe than there is entering the intake. The miracle that made this situation possible — the combination of platinum catalysts and truly effective electronic engine control — has also ushered in the true golden age of automotive performance.

Unless you live in France, of course, where the cars are slower than dogshit, the air teems with chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, and the capital city is reduced to alternate-day driving bans just to keep a black cloud of poison off the shoulder of the Eiffel Tower. How do you explain this? How is it that degenerate, low-riding, poke-and-stretch, Topanga-Canyon-carving Los Angeles breathes fresh air while the beret-clad heads culturally progressive superiors in blessed France shake from coughing?

Well, we all know the answer: Religion.


Bloomberg tells us that

The efforts had come after a measure of fine particulates in Paris peaked at noon on March 14 at 110 micrograms per cubic meter, exceeding the level in Beijing, obscuring the Eiffel Tower and sending a hazy dome over the city. The comparable reading at the same time for particulates of 2.5 micrometers or smaller in the Chinese capital was 89, according to Air Quality Index China. It was 172 in Shanghai.

The government imposed a ban on automobiles with license plates ending in even numbers from the roads of the French capital and 22 towns surrounding it. Mass transit and the city’s bicycle and car-sharing programs, Velib’ and Autolib’, were free for more than three days. Speed limits were lowered and suburbs offered free street parking. All the measures will end tonight, the government said.

Now, I realize that TTAC had kind of a Tim-Owens-in-Judas-Priest year a while back where we all had to pretend that China was a sort of magical wonderland where the women were beautiful, property rights were absolute, and millions of cheerful workers skipped to work every day with songs in their incomparably-educated hearts, but this is 2015 and let’s be real: any time Bloomberg is non-ironically comparing the state of your city’s environment with Beijing or Shanghai, you got problems, my friend. Why is Paris experiencing crippling air-quality issues related to particulates when California has the problem well in hand?

The short answer is: France loves diesels. Which begs the question: Why? Diesel, as a fuel, is a terrible, sticky, slippery, non-aromatic mess. I realize that TTAC has more than its fair share of diesel evangelists who have somehow managed to convince themselves that these diesel disadvantages don’t exist or don’t matter, but they are in the decided minority. After winning the Cannonball One Lap of America (Alt Fuel Class) in 2006 behind the wheel of a brand-new E300 CDI, I swore to myself that I would never knowingly operate a diesel vehicle again if I had any other option. I despise diesel fuel. Sure, I respect your right to get excited about it, the same way I hope you respect my right to think that more expensive kinds of wood make a guitar sound better, but in both cases we’re being willfully contrary and stupid.

Petrol is the queen of fuels. It evaporates easily, it can be used to wash your hands (although I don’t recommend it, hand-washing was a pre-automotive use of gasoline), it burns well, it allows 600cc motorcycles to rev to 15,000 RPM and Ferrari V8s to more than half of that, and if you spill some on a street or racetrack it’s not catastrophic to everybody around you as long as you aren’t also holding a lit match. Petrol is awesome and the entire world agrees. I know this because somebody else has already performed a detailed statistical analysis showing that diesel fuel has almost no consumer interest anywhere it has no tax advantage.

The use of diesel fuel for passenger cars in Europe has risen from under ten percent in 1980 to over 50 percent in 2005, and higher that today. France is on the leading edge of this, with more than 75 percent of private cars powered by diesel. Why? As that “somebody”, Joshua Linn (no relation to the guy whose Adrenalinn III stompbox gave us the brilliant arpeggiation on John Mayer’s “Bigger Than My Body”) demonstrates, the change is entirely due to tax structures that favor diesel. Fuel economy, which is higher for diesel vehicles, isn’t the reason. Longevity isn’t the reason. Higher purchase prices aren’t the reason — sorry, Mr. Veblen. It’s the taxes, stupid.

Take away diesel’s tax advantage, and buyers return to gasoline in droves. A Europe without diesel-friendly tax policies would closely resemble the United States in fuel choice. While this would dismay refiners who have grown used to being able to sell diesel to one side of the Atlantic and petrol to the other, it would have significant and lasting effects on particulate pollution.

Particulates are nasty things, and the health impact of breathing in diesel particulates has been at least suspected by the EPA for the past forty years. In the cause of reducing particulate-related impact on human health, in particular the known carcinogenic effects, the EPA has imposed stricter regulations than Europe on both commercial and private diesels. While the trucking industry wrote the equivalent of a teenaged girl’s cry-for-help suicide letter when the last batch of regulations took effect, the trucks are still rolling and the air is cleaner as a result.

All petroleum-based fuels are bad for human beings, but diesel is worse and the science, as they say, is settled on this topic. So why have European governments, which are supposed to be more concerned with the health and welfare of their citizens than we are here in the Evil Empire, traditionally offered a massive helping hand to diesel? Where’s the sense in that? Why aren’t all the progressives who become positively enraged by America’s subsidies to the corn/HFCS juggernaut equally upset that Europe is offering a tax benefit to a fuel that creates smog and causes cancer?

I can’t lie: The historical reasons for Europe’s decision to offer tax breaks to diesel drivers are beyond my knowledge and/or understanding. After reading maybe a hundred pages on the subject today, I’m not a whit better-informed or smarter about it. What I can tell you is while the reasons for diesel tax subsidies in the past are murky, the reasons for modern diesel tax subsidies are crystal clear. For well over a decade, tax structures in Britain and elsewhere favored diesel automobiles because they tend to emit less CO2 per mile. Those policies are being reversed, as even France admits its mistake, but the long tail of CO2-centric decision-making is going to haunt European countries as long as the cars purchased under those policies remain on the roads.

Even if you accept that the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is equal in value and precision to the demonstrated medical science regarding the effects of particulates on human health, you have to admit that the primary threat to the environment comes from power generation, not automobiles, and certainly not European automobiles, which are already more efficient than their counterparts in many other markets. Those wonderful folks in China are burning coal at more than twice the combined rate of the US and Europe and that gap is growing every day. They’re also attempting to motorize their population. Viewed in that cold, factual light, the CO2 to be saved by forcing particulates into the lungs of every man, woman, and child in the EU amounts to little more than Natalie Merchant’s “tear in a salted sea”. Statistically speaking, there are going to be tens or even hundreds of thousands of European citizens who won’t live to see the oceans rise because they’ll be dead from particulate inhalation.

I don’t consider myself to be a math whiz so I have to assume that the European politicians had access to all the same numbers that I have when they made their decisions. They’re admitting fault now, but that doesn’t clarify their reasons for making those mistakes in the first place. Lacking any sort of tell-all biography on the part of a Brussels bureaucrat, I have to think that the whole thing stemmed from a mindset that privileges humanity over humans.

Those of us who were born and raised in the United States tend to take it for granted that the individual citizen’s rights often take priority over the rights of the citizenry in general — look at all the controversy over eminent-domains laws if you have any doubt about that. Very few of us would willingly accept death-by-cancer for us or our kids as a fair tradeoff for being minor cogs in a distant and dimly realized vision of the future. We don’t believe in the long term vision, particularly when it includes major sacrifices to make that long term vision happen. The idea of the thousand-year-Reich has no currency in the land of the rent-to-own television. We call it what it is: religion without God, an ersatz piety that places some vague concept of humanity in the place of the imaginary Almighty but demands no less fealty from its followers than the cruelest prehistoric deity.

The average European on the street probably feels about the same way on that topic, but he lives in a political environment where questioning the idea of getting lung cancer so China has fractionally more CO2 overhead for coal factories is considered “reactionary” or “racist” or “UKIP”. The spice must flow, you see — and for “spice” just read “endless stream of cheap products made with Chinese electricity to increase the already-boundless profits of European one-percenter intellectual-property holders.” And even when the failure of these policies is writ large in the sky above Paris, the only solutions that come to the minds of the mandarins involve further humiliation of the bourgeoisie: travel restrictions, mandatory public transportation, scrapping private property by force. For having the temerity to have done what he was told to do in 2010 — buy diesel cars — today’s motorist will be denied the freedom to enter Paris behind the wheel of that same diesel car. He trusted the government to have an adequate command of the science and the facts of the matter and that trust, sadly, was misplaced.

Can this situation be fixed? Yes. It can be fixed the free-market way — by the removal of diesel subsidies that is already happening. That should lead to cleaner skies in the year 2025. If the Paris crowd wants cleaner air in the near future without arbitrary restrictions on movement and the outrageous secondary market that will accompany them (think of the market for “matched pairs” of even and odd license plates) then there will have to be some sort of unilateral action to match the sort of unilateral action that got them in this fix.

I suggest the following: Encourage the immediate production of a small-petrol-engined Renault or Citroen. Something like the old Twingo, only with a modern 600cc engine. Stop-start, all that. Make a car that offers the maximum possible reduction of both CO2 and fuel consumption. Then offer tax credits in the full amount of the purchase price for anybody who takes their currently registered diesel car to the crusher and replaces it with one of the new cars. This will encourage people to junk the older and less valuable diesels immediately. Leave the program in place for five years.

Such a program would create jobs, it would encourage commerce, it would get the diesels off the road, it would serve as a model program for low-capacity minicars in Europe. The only things that would be required would be a willingness on the part of the French legislators to admit blame for the current situation and a further willingness to engage in some austerity measures to pay for the program. It would be a breath of fresh air, to be sure; but trust me, if you want a breath of fresh air, Paris ain’t the place to be right now.

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96 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Stupid Paris stupid does....”


  • avatar
    wmba

    Absolutely correct. Diesel is an awful fuel – my eyes swelled up and shut on my last trip to England crossing the Pennines on the M62. Fumes smelled like a home furnace gone wrong. No, I wasn’t the driver. London is a hellhole for the same reason.

    Best of all, LJKS hated the stuff as well.

  • avatar
    insalted42

    “Can this situation be fixed? Yes. It can be fixed the free-market way ”

    Having studied Business in Germany and lived in France for a not-insignificant amount of time, I can tell you that this will most likely never happen. Europeans (French especially, but also Germans in their own way) generally distrust positive incentives (giving people money or tax incentives to do something) and trend almost exclusively towards punishing consumers who choose to consume against the government’s wishes.

    Will they fix the problem? Possibly. But it will most likely be with punitive measures against Diesels, rather than with tax incentives for buying environmentally-friendly petrol cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      ^ That’s what I was thinking, instead of lowering the already painfully regressive taxes on gasoline, I would expect them to make diesel prices even more unbearable.

    • 0 avatar

      True but possible. While the left has historical problems with tax breaks, some leftist governments have incorporated it into their repertoire (like the government in Brazil but one that derives much of its thinking from Euro sources). I thinj that as tax levels are already very high and the Euro zone is nurturing a slow recovery it could be possible to see a drop in gas taxes as well as the inevitable rise in diesel taxes.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Europe did cash-for-clunkers too, and they spent more money on it than the US did. There’s no reason to believe they couldn’t do it again. It might even give the ECB an excuse to issue a bunch of bonds to pay for it, perhaps even inflating away the problems with Greece and Spain.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Diesel also isn’t any better on CO2 or actual oil as fuel consumption than a good gas or gas hybrid!

    (Diesel gets better “mpg” because the fuel is denser, but thats why in the US the fuel is more expensive too, because you can crack it to make more volume of gasoline).

    Lets compare apples to apples from the EPA site:

    A Ram HFE diesel and a Ram HFE gasoline is both 425 g/mile of CO2.

    A Jetta TDI is 280 g/mile, a Jetta Hybrid is 200! So the hybrid (same car, same maker) is vastly more efficient than a diesel.

    So the CO2 excuse has always been an excuse: It was initially the trucking and farming lobby not wanting to get killed by consumer-facing gas taxes. And now its those who bought the diesel cars not wanting to get killed by gas taxes.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      This is not entirely true in reality; the diesels normally use 30% – 40% less fuel than the non-hybrid gasoline engines but the difference in fuel density is only 10%. EPA procedures are fairly well known to be relatively penalizing to diesels and overly optimistic for hybrids.

      To pick but one example – Ram ProMaster, for the simple reason that I have one. The gas engine owners are reporting 17-ish mpg in normal driving and 21 requires exceptionally careful driving, diesel owners are reporting 24-ish in normal driving and nearly 30 in exceptional circumstances (steady but relatively low highway speed).

      If you compare to the hybrids, then yes, they are about the same on fuel consumption which means the hybrid is a little better on CO2.

      Europe’s problem with diesels is mainly that they were late to adopt DPF, and also that older cars stay on the road for much longer because they don’t have nearly the rust-belt problem that much of North America has …

      And there is another frustration coming down the pipe with regards to particulate emissions: Direct-injection gasoline engines. It seems that these emit certainly more PM than late-model port-injection engines, and more PM than DPF-equipped diesels. But the auto manufacturers are hanging their hat on high-tech direct-injection gasoline engines to save the day.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Preliminary reports show that turbo direct injection engines create as much fine particulate as a diesel. Currently TTDI engines do not require DEF. Ford has based its entire Ecoboost engine program on the basis that a TTDI engine offers diesel like power and slightly less mpg but from a less complex emissions package. If DEF becomes a requirement for TTDI engines we will see more diesel powered vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        “And there is another frustration coming down the pipe with regards to particulate emissions: Direct-injection gasoline engines. It seems that these emit certainly more PM than late-model port-injection engines, and more PM than DPF-equipped diesels. But the auto manufacturers are hanging their hat on high-tech direct-injection gasoline engines to save the day.”

        Good! another reason for me to dislike DI even more. Like turbocharging, its usefulness is vastly overrated.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      The brands don’t give us a clean apples to apples though, even within a single vehicle line. The jetta for instance is running a 1.4T with the hybrid with an extra gear ratio and plenty of other tricks (LRR tires, stop start, active grille shutter), while the diesel is a 2.0T with no low hanging fruit picked to aide it.

      I don’t actually disagree with the premise of the article, but Europeans and car makers were being rational within the bounds of a CO2 based system when they went full diesel. A 1.4T diesel would make less CO2 than a 1.4T gas model (even burning premium). It would make more particulates obviously as well, which is kind of the point.

      The question is, do our emissions regs result in cleaner diesel emissions here in the states? We do require different equipment to meet standards. I don’t have an answer to this but it is interesting.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        The big difference is the particulate emissions in the US are controlled because several years ago the US started requiring DPF on all new diesels. Europe STILL isn’t requiring these as far as I know (maybe they’re part of Euro 6 but I’m not sure and I don’t think so). As the post above yours notes, a DI petrol engine produces more particulate emissions than a diesel with the DPF, so switching to gas-engined cars isn’t really a solution. Plus comparing diesels directly to hybrids is kind of silly; you can make a diesel hybrid as well as a gas hybrid.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Yes, US emission regulations generally resulted in cleaner diesel emissions than in the US. That is partially why you don’t see as many diesel engines in the US despite them being sold in Europe- they did not meet US regulations but passed EU’s fine (it wasn’t just consumer preference in deciding what diesels to sell here). There was also a period of time 7 or so years ago where many diesels were dropped in the US because they did not meet new regulations and VW and whatnot did not have new engines that could meet them ready yet.

        With their latest regulations that went into effect last fall (?) EU emissions closely match the EPA’s however.

        • 0 avatar
          korvetkeith

          I do diesel emissions systems development for caterpillar. Our 2007 on highway engines absolutely do emit less particulate matter than they ingest in LA.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            “I do diesel emissions systems development for caterpillar. Our 2007 on highway engines absolutely do emit less particulate matter than they ingest in LA.”

            I always get a kick out of this when motor vehicles scrub the air they are ingesting.

            I remember reading about this years ago and there was some thought given to coating radiators so that as air flowed across their surface as well they would increase the effect.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      Nicholas: + 1, very true on CO2. And CO2 was not a topic 30 years ago when this policy started.

      Here some German insight without promise to be complete and I’m not sure about the other European countries:
      – in the 1980s (or earlier) Germany as a transit land had higher fuel tax than its neighbors (and still does). therefore many people living at the border travel across to get cheaper fuel (and cigarettes etc.). Also semi-trucks crossing Germany fueled up in Poland, drove all the way to France without ever refueling in Germany.
      – at the time only trucks would use diesel for torque and longevity. Barely any cars (some 50 hp golf, some 70 hp Mercedes, maybe 0.001%) were diesel
      – to encourage trucks to fuel up in Germany, diesel fuel tax was lowered. In return the registration tax for diesel vehicles was raised (for trucks it is based on cargo capacity, for cars based on displacement). So a diesel car would cost $300 / year, a gasoline car $50 or so (also depends on what EURO emission class etc.)
      – again with only few lame duck cars using diesel this was not an issue
      – emission regulations also gave diesel an advantage allowing significantly higher NOx and soot values for diesel cars.
      – Long distance drivers bought more diesel cars (cheaper fuel, but higher registration makes a diesel viable at 20,000 km or so a year)
      – VW offered more turbodiesel, up to the TDi. This then made diesels sportier, and more efficient, encouraging even more people to buy them for cars. The TDi was so good (probably compared to the prior non-turbos) that random people on the Street would rave about them. Housewives who only know they have a “red car” would know what a TDi is. Much may have been marketing, but the word TDi stand for power, efficiency, longevity. Many people inc. myseld bought a VW product because of its so much better dieselmotor. Its reputation was like mentioning “Hemi” in the US. If the car only had 75 hp… didn’t matter as long as it was a TDi it felt like a Porsche and everyone agreed.
      – the rest is history, more manufacturers offered turbodiesels, more people bought them…. and the European manufacturers got really good at diesel engineering.

      Why is this insanity not stopped? My two theories are:
      – many people (50%) have diesel cars… who wants to piss off 50%
      – the European manufacturers have a competitive advantage. It is very hard for Toyonda to get a foothold without a good diesel (I’m 100% sure they could design a good diesel). They only sell ins small numbers, so the cost would be outrageous per car sold as that diesel motor would be useless in all other markets. typical chicken-egg problem. So a lot of lobbying and political play is going on to protect “workplaces”
      (my second theory on why Japanese OEM are less successful in Europe is, that during the oil crisis European OEM already had fuel efficient cars unlike the big 3)

      You think diesel is popular on the internet in the US? Go to a diesel driver in Europe and mention diesel is related to asthma and you get the same response like telling a FoxNews audience about climate change. They will drag out that one single study from 100 years ago that offered the possibility that diesel is good, and recite it forever and will claim every other study since then has been bought by the gasoline lobby.

  • avatar
    mike978

    If they eliminate the difference in taxation on petrol and diesel then that would accelerate the trend back to petrol powered cars. As an incentive for the bureaucrats it would also increase the tax take since they would equalise up the taxes between the fuels.

    The UK has been doing that for a while.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Drowning out the One Small Voice of Europe’s Ellsworth Tooheys is difficult but not impossible. Good piece.

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    “The modern automobile is virtually an air scrubber; there’s less poison coming out of the tailpipe than there is entering the intake.”

    Ugh. You made a lot of really good points, but drivel like this is just drivel (Clarkson moment?)
    Automobiles are cleaner, but they don’t really clean the air. LA hasn’t “won” anything with regards to air pollution. 40% of a crappy situation is not automatically great.

    Also, you state that the “free market” should be the solution, then immediately dive into tax credits and “encouragement of production” of vehicles you think will work. I am not saying diesel subsidies shouldn’t be removed, but I think you need to stick to cars, not pollution science and politics.

  • avatar
    Stugots

    Jack, you are my favorite writer on this site and I generally find myself in agreement, but this time I must dissent. From an engineering standpoint, the benefit of diesel is not in the fuel, but rather in the engine that uses it. The very high compression ratio of the diesel engine leads to higher thermodynamic efficiency – in layman’s terms it leads to extracting a greater amount of the chemical energy that is inherent in the fuel. This also means less waste (in the form of heat rejected through the cooling and exhaust systems). The secondary byproduct of this thermodynamic efficiency are excellent fuel economy and excellent torque characteristics, well known to diesel enthusiasts, and likely the reasons many Europeans are hooked on diesels. Diesel engines operate at higher compression ratios than is possible in gasoline engines and therefore will always have a thermodynamic efficiency advantage. Sorry for the length of this note; I’m an engineer and can’t help myself.

    • 0 avatar
      John R

      Okay, but do these benefits outweigh the ostensible penalties refered to in this editorial? Namely issue with particulates.

      I feel that nuclear power generation, for example, can be described in this same fashion. It is incredibly efficient, but the arguement ignores potential for damage to a person’s physiology.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Always good to hear from an engineer!

      I suppose the question is: does the efficiency advantage of diesel outweigh the health problems?

      • 0 avatar
        jdogma

        From a chemist, you got it pretty much figured out. Also consider that direct injection offers combustion strategies than can use gasoline along with diesel-like compression ratios. As for CO2 here are some rational thoughts from a Greenpeace founder: http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2015/03/20/why-i-am-climate-change-skeptic You can follow the taxes on that too.

        The best diesel analysis I have read! Everything in agreement with my thinking (except free market does not require government interference) with interesting researched facts added!

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        The health problems would be largely mitigated if Europe would adopt the same diesel emissions standards as the US. Diesel Particulate Filters take care of the main issue referenced in this article, and AdBlue (urea) takes care of the NOx emissions. The fact that Europe sells many times more diesels and yet doesn’t requires these is completely backwards.

      • 0 avatar
        George Herbert

        Please for the love of Porsche don’t ignore Gasoline’s health problems.

        It’s toxic (liver, other things), carcinogenic, etc. It’s probably the most hazardous chemical consumers are allowed to use in quantity, and the various regulatory agencies would do something about that if they could, but trying to tell the whole country to stop would be a career-ending move for their organizations so they keep quiet.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Gasoline is also addictive, more so than cocaine, heroine, marijuana or even alcohol.

          Ask me! I’m a gasoline addict. I gotta have it, no matter what it costs.

          I can’t live without it.

          • 0 avatar
            George Herbert

            I DD a RX-8, ask me about mileage sometime. But, there’s a difference between us all going VROOM, and ignoring that Gasoline is a really horribly bad chemical to be this close to.

            Benzene MSDS:
            http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9927339

            Quoting:
            “Potential Chronic Health Effects:
            CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: Classified A1 (Confirmed for human.) by ACGIH, 1 (Proven for human.) by IARC. MUTAGENIC
            EFFECTS: Classified POSSIBLE for human. Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. Mutagenic for bacteria and/or yeast.
            TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Classified Reproductive system/toxin/female
            [POSSIBLE]. The substance is toxic to blood, bone marrow, central nervous system (CNS). The substance may be toxic to
            liver, Urinary System. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.”

            Toluene MSDS:
            http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9927301

            Benzene is the worst, but you can go down the list of ingredients, and until you hit Ethanol or Butane it’s pretty much “DO NOT PASS GO” with the chemical.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            No one’s saying gasoline is good for you, but most pre-emissions cars and trucks on the road are diesel, especially in France and Europe.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I was born, grew up in, and lived in Huntington Beach, CA, from 1947 ->June 1965 and this was when smog and other pollutants were really, really bad there.

            The Ocean breezes helped somewhat until the Santa Ana winds reversed the air flow. That pollution watered our eyes, but we didn’t know any better.

            So, when I was little kid, I remember standing behind my Dad’s ’49 Chevy and sniffing the exhaust fumes because it smelled sooooooo good.

            That was at a time when we knew little about the harmful effects of all the stuff we need to live.

            Who knew that cigarettes were bad for us? Alcohol? I only drank to excess when stationed in Germany with the US military because it was tax-free and dirt cheap at the Class VI store.

            I remember when C-rats in the military included five cigarettes. And they came in very handy when I had latrine duty in Viet Nam, burning the sh!t in the drums with gasoline.

            Yeah, gasoline and I go back a long time. That’s how I became addicted.

            (But I love the fact that gasoline provides me mobility and I don’t care about mpg, fuel economy or how much each gallon of gas costs me. I’ll buy it until I run out of money or I can buy no more.)

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Then stop drinking it and you’ll be fine.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          You say that as if diesel isn’t a hazardous substance as well. It is also toxic, carcinogenic, etc.

          Everything powering your typical car (whether that be gasoline, diesel, or electricity) is hazardous in some way.

          • 0 avatar
            George Herbert

            Diesel is MUCH less toxic. You can drink it safely, for example, though I don’t recommend it. Skin contact is pretty safe. It, kerosene, the various jet fuels etc are pretty inert. Nearly no aromatics (benzene toluene etc). The hazards are largely the napathalene and n-hexane (less than 1% of each); see the MSDS:

            http://www.valero.com/v_msds/102%20-%20diesel%20fuels%20rev2.pdf

            Diesel exhaust is carcinogenic, and napathalene is in some cases an animal carcinogen but not known and not strongly thought to be human carcinogenic. n-hexane is just slightly acutely toxic.

            Minus those, the rest of the ingredients aren’t that different than food or cosmetic grade mineral oil, which is used in food preparation, in some places outside the EU in cooking, cosmetics, various old stomach remedies, and still in some enema solutions (which are medically approved).

            Gasoline will do bad things to you quickly, not as fast as pure toluene or benzene but their component fractions (and the other nasties in there) make any serious internal contact a go-to-hospital and worry for long time type event.

            Benzene is not as bad as hydrazine, but they end up with a lot of the same toxic effects. People have survived having hydrazine poured all over them in accidents, but liver damage is real, and in the long term so is cancer risk. I shudder each time I think of using gasoline to clean things sometimes as a kid.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Don’t apologize for having engineering knowledge. We need people like you around here, giving long opinions.

      :)

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      You forgot the other advantage that diesel engines have which is the lack of a throttle to create vacuum in the intake and thus a waste of the energy produced. However many modern diesels that meet US 2010 emissions standards do have throttles to get the desired operation of the EGR system and/or regeneration of the DPF.

      The fact that the fuel contains more energy per gallon is an advantage when it comes to MPG.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    For France, s country with little petroleum production but lots of nuclear power, a switch to PHEVs and BEVs makes more sense.

    Direct injection spark ignition engines produce particulates as well. They can be controlled easily with a filter.

  • avatar

    I have always disliked diesel because of the noise and beca use I like engines that rev. Particulate matter was also a concern and yes I had the sensation of better air in the US than Europe.

    However, I think the environmental concerns were largely an excuse, the idea used to sell the idea to the public while backstage economic reasoning prevailed. It’s as you Amwricans say, follow the money. Lots of Europeans specially back in the 80s were cheapstakes. They kept their cars longer than they should. Couple that with the threat of a Japanese invasion, voilà, the diesel passenger car appeared (of course they existed before but in small numbers). That way you incentivized people to get a new car sooner and kept the Japanese at arm’s length as they were not particularly good because not interested in diesels.

    Btw, no 600 cc is needed. 1,0 L four or three pots stay near the 100 level of CO2 while putting forth about 70 hp. More than enough for city driving and capable of going 120 to 130 km/h all day on the highway.

    Dirigisme has some of the negatives Jack wrote about, but it also has a positive. The capacity to turn things around quickly if need be.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Honda has to have the G1 Insight tooling laying around somewhere. Start bashing those out with an updated TwinAir engine and LiOn battery. With ~ 1800 lbs to push around, it should do just fine.

  • avatar
    TTAA

    Jack, you need to refine light sweet crude to get petrol. A lot of European auto fuel comes from the OPEC nations, which has a high sulfur content (sour)- it’s more expensive and difficult to refine to gasoline. Deisel is what you get..

    Light sweet mosty comes from Texas/gulf of Mexico – virtually all of which (until recently) stays here

  • avatar
    ItsMeMartin

    As much as I agree with Jack that the tax system that favors diesels is not only unfair but also an utter and complete failure, I do not agree with the proposed solution. Jack, how can you argue that the problem of pollution caused by diesels can be solved by free-market solutions but what you offer is a textbook case of government intervention?
    How is artificially propping up new car demand by governmental decree anything but corporate welfare? Why should the government assist the carmakers in selling cars? You advocate another governmental intrusion into the market but that is precisely what caused the diesel problem to appear in the first place – the government deciding what the population should be driving instead of letting the market decide.
    I remember someone here informing me that the average age of a car in the EU is around 9 years; I’m guessing it would be even lower in its richer, Western part. Take away the incentives for buying diesels, let the motor pool replace itself naturally, and you will have most of the effect without spending massive funds on yet another misguided intervention. And with the GDP growth of France hovering just above 0% and unlikely to change anytime soon, you would not need to tell the French twice to go smaller and more frugal with regards to their car purchases. The market will force them to.

    There’s also a second reason for my opposition to your proposal. You suggest that part of the solution involves scrapping cars. As a matter of fact, that is currently happening here on a massive scale. Very often perfectly good, drivable cars are destroyed in order to get a government handout. Even more often a single broken part, often a consumable, consigns an otherwise solid car to a junkyard to get destroyed.
    A car is often the most complex and second most expensive thing that one possesses. It’s shameful that such a technological marvel is often treated as disposable. Buy-use-discard; that’s the name of the game now.
    By the way, I don’t know history that much but I would be mighty surprised if there ever was in human history a culture which would deliberately destroy the fruits of their labor and ingenuity, build their future on that, and prevail. And if the current political and economic trends are any indication, the contemporary Western culture is no exception.

  • avatar
    John R

    Wouldn’t the simplest solution be to reduce the tax incentive on diesel and let people vote with their wallets?

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    A little background on diesel subsidies (or preferential taxation).

    Factor 1: France produces almost no oil, so the 1973 oil shock hit them harder than it did the US. At the time, diesels had a much greater fuel economy advantage then they do now, so driving a diesel was seen as a patriotic thing to do. You could drive a big expensive car, but if it was a diesel you were doing your part for the common good.

    Factor 2: Diesel is perceived as a “farmer’s fuel” in France, and no politician can punish farmers. That made it easier to raise taxes on petrol than on diesel. Also, you can’t mandate diesel emission controls because that would be “bad for farmers.”

    It should also be noted that Europe as a whole is 20 years behind the US in emission controls. They stopped selling leaded gas in the 90s, they only stopped selling non-DPF diesels recently, and their latest Euro-6 standards are much weaker than EPA standards. EU automakers have cried like babies every time tougher laws were proposed, even though their US-bound cars easily met those standards.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Why can’t France (and Europe) have different types of diesel for tractors and for passenger vehicles? We have that in the United States already and have for years. Tax it at different rates.

      I had to explain to my wife recently while on a long car trip why one of the diesel pumps said “OFF ROAD USE ONLY.” (I grew up in Midwestern farm country – she did not.)

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The relative efficiency of diesel over carburetor-fueled gasoline engines in the 1970s is an excellent point. I owned a 1980 Audi 5000 diesel which would easily exceed 30 mpg on the highway and do better than 20 around town. The Mercedes diesels of the era performed comparably. The same car powered by a gasoline engine would be lucky to do half that.

      That’s interesting is how the efficiency gap between the two types of engines has closed, as a result of improvements in gasoline engines and, frankly, emission controls on diesels that make them less efficient. Today, on a cost basis, diesels make sense only in pickup trucks and large SUVs, which also happens to be an application where their high torque confers a significant drive-ability and noise advantage.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The air in LA has higher average levels of particulate matter (both PM10 and PM2.5) than Paris. Yesterday was an unusual event for Paris due to weather patterns; neither city has clean air, but Paris usually has the advantage.

    Smog controls have helped California quite a bit, but the decline of heavy industry in LA has also contributed to cleaner air. What’s good for the blue collar worker’s pocketbook has not been good for their (or anyone else’s) lungs.

    Diesel has been taxed at lower rates in Europe largely because of commercial users such as trucking and agriculture demanding lower tax rates for their fuel. High motor fuel taxes have been the norm in Europe because there isn’t much oil there, so consumers have long been discouraged from using it.

    There is nothing in the free market that is going to lead to more dead dinosaurs being located on the European continent. Lower gasoline taxes would increase trade deficits and political dependency on oil producers such as OPEC and Russia, so tax cuts would be a bad idea.

    • 0 avatar

      Pch what do you attribute higher levels in LA to? Sincere question btw. Just higher numbers if cars, trucks and buses coupled maybe with bigger engines?

      As to diesel prices lower because if trucking, in Germany at least until a ciuple of years ago diesel for commercial truckers was cheaper. It seems to me they did this mainly by adding a colorant to one or the other to distinguish. So you could potentially keep it cheaper for truckers and farmers and raise it for everyone elsr.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Southern California is highly populated (combined population of LA and Orange Counties is somewhat higher than Paris and its suburbs) and Los Angelenos drive a lot. The cars are much, much cleaner than they once were, but the air is still bad.

        It doesn’t help that LA is located in a basin, so it has a natural inversion layer ala Mexico City. The various hills/ mountains in the region trap the bad air, hence the smog. There was haze in the area long before there were cars, thanks to the effects of fire.

      • 0 avatar
        asapuntz

        Cars last a long time on the west coast, so there’s probably a non-trivial number of old polluters being driven around, and it doesn’t take many to offset a fleet’s worth of modern engines.

        Also, I believe SoCal has lots of small gas engines in the form of lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and weed wackers which are significant contributors to particulate, NOx, and SOx pollution.

        I read that the ports have done a lot to ensure that ships can use shore power rather than running their engines.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      That’s my experience in LA as well. It’s the only place in the US that I’ve seen the “dome of smog” in my lifetime. On a still day flying in I expect to descend through a yellow blanket. Head up the mountains in an interesting car and you can also see it (if you are far enough away).

      I actually felt it on long bike rides when I last lived there (four months three years ago), so LA smog isn’t a fantasy and goes a long way to explaining the overreach and desperation you see in the various aspects of CARB legislation.

      On a side note, I don’t mind CARB emissions testing, it’s the sticker rules and needlessly increased parts costs which I find truly objectionable. I know people who have totalled perfectly serviceable cars with no rust because they needed an exhaust replacement. That, to me, is crazy and counter productive. California has a huge problem with their truck based commercial infrastructure and they need to figure that out if they want results.

  • avatar
    mike89

    The new trend in the past few years seem to be bi-fuel cars, running on petrol and CNG or LPG.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    The reason for using diesels in Europe is not the taxes, it’s the fuel economy. From the mid-90s, when the turbodiesels became a viable alternative, and especially since early 00s, when common-rail fuel injection came, the power-to-economy ratio of diesel engines was absolutely unmatched by anything petrol powered.

    The advent of downsized, turbocharged, direct-injected petrol plants made up for some of the difference, together with tightening emission standards which made for decrease of fuel economy of diesel engines, but there’s still a difference.

    A typical family hatchback will happily run for 5 l/100km of diesel fuel (around 50 mpg), without the driver having to be especially gentle. Petrol one of similar output will be closer to 7 or 8 l/100km (30 mpg).

    And with bigger and more powerful cars, the difference is greater yet. Small cars with gasoline engines at least still exist, but gasoline powered BMWs, for example, are virtually extinct in most parts of Europe. And it’s easy to see why – cars like 535d can achieve well over 40 mpg when driven gently, and even with lead-footed maniac behind the wheel, they rarely get under 20. Gasoline-burning car of the same power output will gulp maybe 30% more when driven gently, and more then twice the amount of fuel when driven fast.

    That’s not to say I love the diesel – I strongly dislike it, but living in Europe, it’s sometimes the only choice. I’m even contemplating getting a diesel, manual wagon, because getting to places for half the cost of driving my usual gasoline V6 or V8 is quite an incentive.

    But there’s a “solution” coming. With tightening emission standards, the diesel engines will be less and less cost-effective. Even now, anything diesel-powered and newer than 10 years (and most cars newer than 15 years) doesn’t make economical sense when you count the common-rail related costs. Fuel injectors, pumps, turbochargers, dual-mass flywheels, particle filters… all that shit can easily cost the same as your 5-year-old diesel, manual wagon.

    At this moment, diesels make sense when you drive more than, say, 30K miles per year. But with the new ones being more and more complicated, and gasoline cars being more and more effective, this number is gonna rise.

    P.S.:
    No need to build a new, small engined Renault or Peugeot. The Twingo and 108 already exist.
    P.P.S.:
    Start-Stop is worthless. It works only for NEDC.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “Those policies are being reversed, as even France admits its mistake, but the long tail of CO2-centric decision-making is going to haunt European countries as long as the cars purchased under those policies remain on the roads.”

    It isn’t really CO2-centric decision-making that got France where it is today. Diesel enjoyed a tax advantage because of the trucking lobby, and because European OEMs could use their expertise in diesel-engine design to keep ahead of imports.

    Now that Toyota and Hyundai make good diesels, and the Europeans are making hybrids, that reason is gone.

    CO2 just happened to be a side-benefit in the “if all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail” sense. Other countries that didn’t have the long history of diesel use looked to gas/electric hybrids or electrification, but the European marques didn’t have any experience in that: their “hammer” was the small-displacement turbodiesel. So when governments tightened up on CO2, they had one go-to.

    You can’t really finger carbon regulation for Europe’s use of diesel (and Euro-IV diesels aren’t really that bad as far as pollutants are concerned) that was in place well, well before anyone really cared about carbon. You can blame European governments for failing to act quickly, but then again, they didn’t have the incentive that California had: most European cities aren’t as unfortunate, in terms of their geography and climate, to form natural smog basins. Between that and the militant trucking lobby, they pushed this off as long as they could.

  • avatar
    rickentropic

    I miss the Stanley Steamers.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Hey, f*ck you! Tim “Ripper” Owens is awesome!

    Certainly better than that guy Iron Maiden replaced Bruce Dickinson with.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    JB delivering a crushing deathblow to the mindless diesel neckbeards. LOVIN IT.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      Once again Mr Baruth, with his compelling ripped-from-the-headlines approach, has cobbled together an argument to support his personal agen
      .
      .
      .
      we’re sorry to announce that the commenter known to you only as hybridkiller has unexpectedly died in mid-post. It is currently unknown (pending an autopsy) whether his death was caused by prolonged exposure to diesel exhaust, or by a crushing deathblow to which he may have succumbed due to being in a high-risk group (mindless diesel neckbeards). Early speculation is leaning towards the former explanation, as there seems to be no history of mindless neckbeardedness in the family. We will update you as more information becomes available.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    France sold out the health of their citizens and now scrambling to fix the ugly mess. Oops. This is all about cancer rates and lung ailments, not the view.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    … you have to admit that the primary threat to the environment comes from power generation, not automobiles ….

    I have said this before with electric cars, and I will say it again…

    The main advantage to most modern power plants is that they are located far away from city centers. The image of power plant like Battersea in London with it’s towering smokestacks is almost extinct; most powerplants are located at least a short distance away from populated areas.

    That means they are not contributing to the local pollution in cities like LA and Paris. And when you drive an electric car, the pollution that may have created when the electricity is generated was created somewhere else, so electric cars have near-zero contribution to urban pollution (they may generate ozone; but don’t know for sure.)

    Fleet use is the one area where electric cars make sense; they operate in an urban environment, and they always come home to a garage where it would be easier to install high speed chargers.

    Finally, there are a lot of coal and nuclear plants that provide the base power load. But all of the old oil and many of the older natural gas generating units have been replaced by combined cycle units. These cogen units are 50-60% efficient compared to 35-42% for a conventional steam electric plant (and 15% for an automobile); which is why they are causing even older plants that were paid for a long time ago to be shut down; or only run during peak times. Combine this with the gradual uptake in wind and other alternate energy sources; and means power generation has a far less impact on urban pollution than automobiles; though they are still major contributors to worldwide CO2 levels.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Jack…talk about religion and the True Believers…what about those right here in the good ol USA!

      What difference does it all make?
      Social engineering cannot be stopped.
      It was the cause of the diesel experiment in Europe.
      It is the reason for the Tesla today.
      Damned the bursting into flames of Birds in mid-air as they fly over a solar farm. Damn the birds and migrating animals being killed by the Wind Farms!!!
      The end result is the TRUE goal.
      It is a Holy Goal.
      Yes…you cannot build that dam because there is a rare frog in it. But you can kill the Eagle with a solar farm because the end goal is unquestionable by you mortals!
      Tax exemptions to help force the public to do what another group believes is correct.

      But a truly GREAT write and once again you show auto goons with electric guitars do read more than just Hustler and auto rags.

  • avatar
    Frownsworth

    Sorry if this double-posted, I can’t seem to get this website to work properly today…

    Well, direct injected gasoline engines also produce significant amount of fine particulates since the production is dependent on fuel stratification, diesel or gas. There are studies on this right now and DPF systems designed for direct injected gas engines are out there.

    For example:

    In the US:

    “Advanced Particulate Filter Technologies for Direct Injection Gasoline Engine Applications”

    and in the EU:

    “Cost effectiveness of particulate filter installation on Direct Injection Gasoline vehicles”

    -google it.

    The future doesn’t look different from a particulate point of view, both diesels and gasoline engines are going to get DPF filters and this argument about particulates would not be a main point anymore.

  • avatar

    One good solution is to convert from diesel to natural gas. Natural gas burns much cleaner, is much cheaper, and requires less engine maintenance. Also, it is much less expensive to convert a diesel engine to natural gas than to convert a gasoline engine to it. And the USA could sell Europe plenty of the stuff if only Congress would act to allow the export of our natural gas.

    The long-haul trucking industry in the U.S. has seen the writing on the wall and is beginning to make the move. So are companies that operate trucks over shorter distances. Anheuser-Busch recently tested two natural-gas-powered delivery trucks for six months. The results were so positive that the company’s Houston brewery is replacing its entire fleet of 66 heavy duty diesel trucks with natural-gas-powered rigs. Ryder, FedEx and UPS are also making the switch.

    Were Europe to start replacing its heavy diesel trucks with natural gas rigs and its diesel cars with gasoline-powered cars, it would begin to see improvements in the continent’s air quality immediately. But this solution is so good and makes so much sense in terms of economics and cleaner air that it has a snowball’s chance in Hades of being implemented. Fabian socialism is Corporatism Lite®.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I just wonder what that will do to the price of natural gas. Also does that mean diesel pumped out of the ground will become waste? I know NYC for example is already phasing out fuel oils for heating bit by bit. If the world determines diesel to be unusable it would make other petroleum based fuels that much more expensive. Hopefully we will shift our collective power generation to renewables in time to pick up the slack

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The gas markets in the US and Europe bear no resemblance to each other.

    • 0 avatar
      oldworntruck

      What makes you think it’s cheaper to convert a diesel engine to natural gas than a petrol engine? I have been working with cng converted gasoline engines since 1997. I have also been working with lpg and diesel engines in industrial settings. lpg or cng conversion is pretty staightforward in the case of a traditional spark fired engine. The major cost factor for cng conversion is the high pressure tank required to contain liquid natural gas. when converting a diesel engine it isnt anywhere near as simple as a spark ignition system.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    Diesel may be bad, but what if you have Range Anxiety?

  • avatar
    RonW

    Uhm, at the risk of unraveling the author’s word salad here, direct injection gasoline PM emissions are worse (orders of magnitude higher in number, and more hazardous due to PM size) than those of DPF-equipped diesels.

    • 0 avatar
      marc

      Can you provide a source for that claim? I’ve read a few posters here say that, but everything I read elsewhere contradicts this, specifically that DI engines have a minor increase over regular gas engines, but that this is still much less than diesel engines.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> Can you provide a source for that claim?

        See the chart at the bottom of page 9:

        http://www.swri.org/3pubs/ttoday/Summer11/PDFs/ParticleEmissions.pdf

        • 0 avatar
          marc

          That 4 year old article suggests that DI engines emit less PM emissions than regular diesels, but more than diesels with filters. It appears to be a study advocating for filters to be comparable. But it does not address the result. 4 years later, do we not have filters for DI engines? Can you still claim they are dirtier?

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            Here’s an SAE article from this December:

            http://articles.sae.org/13624/

            There’s a lot more information out there. I just haven’t had time to research it.

          • 0 avatar
            derekson

            You can’t compare DI gas engines with filtered diesels because filtered DI gas models don’t exist, whereas DPF have been required for years in the US and are being phased in in Europe.

          • 0 avatar
            Athos Nobile

            Emissions standards will eventually require GDI engines to use particulate filters.

          • 0 avatar
            RonW

            There are no PM filters for DI gasoline engines, while DPF-equipped diesels are commonplace. Modern diesels produce PM on par with port fuel-injected gasoline engines (that is to say, very little PM at all). The author’s proposal is steeped in ignorance.

  • avatar
    210delray

    “The idea of the thousand-year-Reich has no currency in the land of the rent-to-own television.”

    So true; sad and hilarious at the same time!

  • avatar

    “more expensive kinds of wood make a guitar sound better”

    I’m not an engineer or a luthier but as Jack knows I’ve been spending some time working on an electric harmonica so I’ve been diving deep into things like pickups, even picking the brains of pickup designers like Lindy Fralin and Jeff Lace (both of whom, by the way, are gracious people).

    Tonewoods will affect the sound of acoustics for sure, but the reason materials and construction affects the sound of electric guitars is mostly because nobody has yet been able to build a pickup that isn’t at least a little bit microphonic (and the pickups used in the holy grails of tone, ’50s Les Pauls, early ’60s Strats, and innovative Danelectros and fiberglass Valcos, were microphonic as hell). Outside of how construction affects the way that strings sustain and the interplay between the strings’ and the body’s resonances, the sound of an electric guitar should be the tone of its pickups. Well, theoretically.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t admire fine woodworking and beautiful grains.

    Some of my hammers have wooden handles. Others have fiberglass handles. They can both drive nails if swung properly.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    If I were France, I would do the following…

    1. Set a gradually tightening particulate standard for cars and trucks (gas and diesel alike). This will encourage the introduction of DPFs and prevent GDI particulate emissions from getting out of control like diesel particulate emissions did.

    2. Mandate a switch to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel, if this has not happened already. Even dirty old diesels run cleaner on it.

    3. Provide incentives for owners of old diesel trucks and boats to a) re-power them with modern clean diesel engines, b) retrofit DPFs to them, or c) scrap them. This has worked well in California.

    4. Provide incentives for city-dwelling owners of old diesel cars to either scrap them in favor of newer, cleaner vehicles, or to sell them to new owners in rural areas.

    5. Incentivize the purchase of BEVs and plug-in hybrids, and build out infrastructure for them (power plugs on parking meters?). This gives you near-zero tailpipe emissions, and France has plentiful nuclear power to charge them.

    6. Set an example with public fleets: diesel-electric hybrid city buses, gas-electric hybrid cop cars, etc. Similarly, use taxi regulating authority to encourage the purchase of gas-electric hybrids (though the Prius V/+ is becoming plenty popular with taxi drivers there all by itself).

    I don’t know about pushing Mattheiu and Heloise into a 600cc kei-car type thing. Many European city drivers have been spoiled by the diesel’s prodigious torque, with its mighty 0-30kph rush and its generous indifference to gear selection, and so would transition more easily into a gas-electric strong hybrid (e.g. the U.S. Ford C-Max Hybrid.)

  • avatar

    The problem that electric and steam cars faced in the early motoring age is the same problem that EVs and diesels face today: gasoline is the best liquid fuel yet invented. It’s such a good fuel that we can afford to waste 60%+ of its energy as waste heat and it’s still economically practical.

    Had naptha not been refined when it was, the industrial development of the world in the 20th century might not have taken place.

    I know it’s a chicken/egg question, as the development of new fuels fueled the development (sorry, had to) of machines to burn them and the growth of the machine age spurred the development of fuels, but still, without a good, high BTU liquid fuel that could be handled relatively safely, guys like Buick and Daimler would have been groping in the dark.

  • avatar

    “We call it what it is: religion without God, an ersatz piety that places some vague concept of humanity in the place of the imaginary Almighty but demands no less fealty from its followers than the cruelest prehistoric deity.”

    I think I know how Elvin Bishop felt playing in the Butterfield Blues Band with Mike Bloomfield. It would be nice if I could write that well.

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    If you all want some interesting reading, search around the term “super turbo diesel”. You can make some huge power with older 80-90’s benz diesel engines. People modify the mechanical injection pumps fueling, strap on a massive turbo, add intercooler, and go burn the rear tires off. The merc om606 is the honda b20 of the diesel world.

  • avatar

    “Then offer tax credits in the full amount of the purchase price for anybody who takes their currently registered diesel car to the crusher and replaces it with one of the new cars. This will encourage people to junk the older and less valuable diesels immediately. Leave the program in place for five years.”

    Associated Press
    Dateline: New York, 03/23/25

    Sotheby’s Announces Charity Auction From The Baruth Collection

    Sotheby’s auction house has announced that their August auction at Pebble Beach later this year will feature fine vintage automobiles and guitars from the famed Baruth Collection in Ohio. Starting with a single Matsumoku built Electra guitar and an air-cooled Porsche, noted automotive writer Jack Baruth amassed an outstanding collection of music makers and machines.

    Not afraid to go against conventional wisdom, Baruth was one of the first serious guitar collectors to pay attention to Switch Vibracells. When new, that brand was disregarded by most guitar buyers as plastic guitars molded in China and the company that produced the unusual looking instruments folded after a just a few years. As it turned out, their “Vibracell” technology actually worked, producing guitars that sustained as well or better than a mahogany Les Paul. Baruth’s first Switch guitar cost him less than $200. Today you can’t touch them for less than $1,000.

    Likewise with automobiles, Mr. Baruth has a great sense of quality but also has his finger on the pulse of consumers and collectors alike. His colleagues in the world of automotive journalism questioned his wisdom when he went big and long in late model diesel powered European sedans, starting in 2015. The moved surprised many because Baruth at the time expressed an avowed distaste for diesels, and for the most part they were not exciting performance cars. Baruth was a national racing champion and won a number of endurance races when he was younger and he has a reputation for driving fast cars. He still doesn’t like to drive diesels, but he does like to sell them.

    Regulations instituted in 2016, after bad air quality from diesel particulates became an issue the previous year in France, started moving Euro consumers away from the diesel cars that were then more than half of the market. If the cars could not be retrofitted with particulate control devices, the regulations demanded that they be taken off the road and crushed.

    Because so many of those diesel sedans were destroyed, today they are prized by collectors. A few years ago, rumors started surfacing that maybe not as many of those diesel were crushed as was reported. Some said that a secretive collector in the American midwest blackmailed a French official with photos of him engaging in illicit Shibari bondage to divert some of those cars to Cherbourg where they were driven into shipping containers and loaded on merchant ships headed for America.

    Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Powell Home for Wayward Girls, a philanthropy near and dear to Mr. Baruth’s heart.

  • avatar
    Chan

    There will always be debate between the inherent efficiency in using the energy content in diesel versus the cleaner burn of petrol/gasoline, but the simplest solution is to require particulate filters in all new diesel-powered vehicles.

    Forget all the politics of fuel subsidies. There will always be localised differences in big business politics, especially with regard to environmental/pollution standards.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do read that some think that diesels are the problem. The problem is old diesels and new GDI engines.

    Yes, it seems to me that maybe the wrong type of engine is targeted here.

    Diesel vs gasoline is a great debating topic.

    This would make an interesting discussion topic for TTAC.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Thanks Jack. A wonderful read. Bonus points for picking on Frenchies. While I believe AGW is real and dangerous, I always say long term plans that don’t include short term survival aren’t plans. Off to read the comments, I’ll bet they’re ripe.

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