For several weeks, I've sat and watched the 'diesel-gate' episode unfold. On different fronts, you can observe car companies, the German federal government, and city leadership groups emerging in a purgatory-like land with no thinking, no planning, and no understanding.
There is very little doubt that diesel particles are more of a health issue than people thought from five years ago. One might wonder how this change occurred. Did cities put up more observation collection points? Did the cities hire a totally different crew to collect samples? On these topics, the news journalists haven't asked any questions.
The cities involved this mess? Stuttgart led the front on this, with another dozen major metropolitan cities following, and at least 2nd dozen in the mix in recent weeks. It is entirely possible that a hundred German urban areas will have this diesel ban on their horizon by early January.
The state and federal government? Oddly.....the sixteen states and the Berlin group of political players just sat idly by. You could sit and observe that they all acted the in the same fashion as they did in 2013, 2014 and 2015 with the immigration crisis...doing nothing until they were finally forced into the corner.
The ban itself? Let's take the numbers to fill in the picture. Roughly fifty-percent of German cars are diesel in nature. There are six categories for diesel vehicles. The first was established around the summer of 1992, and no one cared about the Nitrogen oxide level at that point. Category two came up in 1996, and again....no one cared about Nitrogen oxide. Then in early 2000, things changed....the Nitrogen oxide level was set at .50. Five years later, they cut the amount of Nitrogen oxide level to around .25. In the fall of 2009.....they then moved the Nitrogen oxide level down to .18. In the fall of 2014, they went to level six....which mean the Nitrogen oxide level was limited to .08.
The city ban idea has zero thought put into it. If you had 100,000 diesel cars entering your city each day....then you said they were forbidden.....what happens? You trigger 100,000 owners having worthless vehicles. Just on the topic of having enough public transportation to take 100,000 diesel owners from the outskirts of town into their place of employment....there is zero thought put into how you'd handle this, or park the cars, or pay for the increased structure required.
So what ought to come out of this diesel summit that is being discussed by the Berlin leadership? I'm guessing five basic solutions:
1. No city will be able to ban a diesel car. You can't allow cities to have this privilege. It has to be a federal effort or no effort at all.
2. Offer up to 4,000 Euro for each vehicle that falls into the Euro-1, Euro-2, Euro-3, or Euro-4 diesel categories.....meaning the car was manufactured before 2005. The guy will have a choice....retire the car entirely, or take the 4,000 and have it converted to natural gas (to be reviewed and stamped complete).
3. Take a strong look at all diesel buses in Germany (both private and city-owned). Somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 diesel buses run in Germany today. The newer buses might meet the Nitrogen oxide level....but I would imagine that more than half do not. Set up a government-fund and pay to have cleaner diesel buses. This shouldn't take more than six months to figure the correct methods to be allowed, and maybe a year to make all of them pass or be removed from use.
4. Terminate all new diesel car sales. I know....it's pretty tough, but you have to start somewhere.
5. Identify corridors in cities where the oxide rate is a problem, and look at the option of planting particular plants which would soak up the oxide. The federal government could offer various incentives and funding packages to make this enticing.
Maybe the cities will come to realize that if you really follow through on the ban....they will create a bigger mess than what exists currently.