Make VW Pay

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Volkswagen designed some 567,000 "clean" diesel cars to violate the law. They built elaborate software, called a "defeat device," to turn on emissions controls during testing and turn them off during regular driving. By cheating the law, VW ripped off hundreds of thousands of consumers who thought they were buying clean vehicles. They put our health at risk, emitting as much as 40 times the legal limit of smog-forming pollutants.

Yet, their deceit and the subsequent settlement now represents a historic opportunity to drastically reduce the harmful pollution that makes us sick and accelerates climate change by providing an essential down payment toward the transition to a clean and modern 21st century transportation system. 

According to the terms of the VW settlement, agreed to by VW and the Department of Justice, VW will pay a total of $14.7 billion in damages for their role in violating federal clean air laws.

Out of the total settlement, $2.7 billion will be distributed to states specifically to reduce NOx pollution, a major component of diesel exhaust. Each state will be required to ask for the funds and to develop a plan for how the money will be used to reduce NOx emissions. 
 
NOx poses a serious threat to human health and has been shown to aggravate and even contribute to the development of respiratory illnesses. NOx is also a key component of smog, which has similar respiratory and health impacts and contributes to acid rain. In addition, diesel exhaust, which contains NOx, carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate matter, and other pollutants, was classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization in 2012.
 
Given the unique challenges and opportunities in each state, the settlement leaves a good amount of flexibility in how the money may be used. However, that flexibility presents its own challenges, opening up the possibility of squandering the money on older, dirtier technologies like diesel and natural gas, while forgoing clean, electric alternatives. Such a move would represent a massive missed opportunity to transition to a cleaner, healthier and modern all-electric system, while only realizing marginal pollution reduction benefits. 
 
Transitioning to all-electric alternatives can reduce long-term costs, gas consumption and harmful pollution, while bringing our outdated transportation system into the 21st century. Therefore, it is essential that these funds be invested wisely.
 
Ensuring that the funds are used wisely will result in several distinct benefits including, but not limited to:
  • Drastically reducing NOx, ground-level ozone (smog), and particulate matter;
  • Significantly reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions; 
  • Reducing long-term fuel consumption, maintenance, and operation costs of public fleet vehicles;
  • Adding needed stability to the price of energy inputs for vehicles;
  • Increasing public awareness and adoption of electric vehicles as cleaner alternatives to traditional gas-powered vehicles. 
To ensure this opportunity is not lost, we're educating the state agencies entrusted with these funds and urging them to spend the maximum allowable amount (15 percent) on electric vehicle charging infrastructure for the state’s highways, while investing the remaining funds on replacing outdated, dirty transit buses. We believe that this is the best possible use of the funds to reduce harmful pollution, lower costs and accelerate a market transformation to an all-electric, 21st century transportation system. 
 
Simultaneously, we are acting to educate and mobilize the public on this opportunity, and bring together likeminded advocates from across the political spectrum to do the same. As leaders in the movement to hold VW accountable, and because of our previous work to ensure a fair and beneficial settlement to VW consumers and the general public, we are uniquely positioned to continue leading this fight. However, if we do not act now, this opportunity will pass and state decision makers may use these funds in counterproductive ways, missing the opportunity to make a substantial down payment on a cleaner, healthier transportation system.
 

Issue updates

Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

Report Back on the VW Road Trip | Mike Litt

After driving 1,671 miles from Colorado over the course of 12 days, the big day arrived -- Marcus and Elisabeth made it to headquarters on Tuesday at 2 PM. I joined them to return their 2011 Jetta SportWagen TDI and deliver over 20,000 of our petitions to Volkswagen. 

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12 of America's Biggest Highway Boondoggles

Given that expanding highways at great public cost doesn’t improve rush-hour traffic, there are better ways to spend this money, argue report authors Jeff Inglis of Frontier Group and John C. Olivieri of U.S. PIRG. They identify a dozen road projects, costing $24 billion in all, that are “representative” of the problem.

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Media Hit | Make VW Pay

This Couple Is Driving Cross-Country To Return Their Polluting Jetta To VW Headquarters

Upset that Volkswagen deceived them into buying a not-so-clean diesel, Marcus Moench and Elisabeth Caspari are driving from Colorado to VW’s headquarters in Virginia to return their Jetta SportWagen TDI and drop off 20,000 petitions. I spoke with them about their journey. Here’s what they had to say.

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Media Hit | Make VW Pay

VW diesel owners on cross-country drive make Chicago stop to raise awareness

A Colorado couple on a cross-country drive to return their 2011 diesel Volkswagen Jetta to the automaker's U.S. headquarters in Virginia stopped in Chicago on Friday to raise awareness about the emissions scandal.

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Media Hit | Make VW Pay

Volkswagen diesel protesters stop by auto show

But now, after U.S. auto regulators revealed the automaker had installed software designed to cheat on emissions testing of VW diesel vehicles, the Boulder residents are driving cross-country to Volkswagen of America’s headquarters in Herndon, Va., to protest. They aren't the only ones.Greenpeace protesters have shown up in Europe to raise awareness of the issue as well.

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Media Hit | Transportation

SoCal residents are driving less, taking transit more, study says

Mirroring a national shift in transportation habits, Southern California residents are driving less and using transit more than they were a decade ago, according to a study by two national think tanks published Wednesday.

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Media Hit | Transportation

New Study Shows More People Leaving Cars At Home

A new report shows urban Californians are leading a trend of leaving cars at home and choosing bikes or public transit instead. It's a first-of-its-kind survey comparing urban transportation trends

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Media Hit | Transportation

Report: More Fresno Commuters ditching their cars

Fresno drivers were in their cars less and using public transit more than a decade ago, a new study showed.

The study, "Transportation in Transition," was released by the California Public Interest Research Group on Wednesday to show how Americans' travel habits have changed over the last ten years.

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News Release | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Report Shows people driving less in cities across California, Using Transit and Alternatives More

CA – A first-of-its-kind report by the CALPIRG Education Fund shows reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in California’s urbanized areas—including the Los Angeles-Santa Ana, San Francisco-Oakland, San Jose, and San Diego areas  —and greater use of public transit and biking

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Americans have been driving less - study

ABC News: A new study by CALPIRG finds that for the last several years Americans have been driving less. 

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Slick Politics

In 1996 and again in 2000, CALPIRG Education Fund completed studies of the levels of money the oil industry spends on lobbying expenses and campaign contributions in California state politics. With consumer and environmental activists continuing to be frustrated in their attempts to enact meaningful petroleum diversity policies for California despite record high gas prices and stubborn pollution problems, we decided to examine once more the effects that money spent by the oil industry has on public policy.

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Report | CALPIRG | Transportation

America Idles

America is too dependent on oil, and consumers are paying the price. For the last two years, gasoline prices have been creeping upward. In 2003, a gallon of regular gasoline averaged $1.56; so far in 2005, the same gallon has averaged $2.29, with prices in some areas spiking close to $4.00 in August and September after Hurricane Katrina disrupted supply from the Gulf Coast.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Solutions to America’s Oil Crisis

America is too dependent on oil, and consumers are paying the price. For the last two years, gasoline prices have been creeping upward. In 2003, a gallon of regular gasoline averaged $1.56; so far in 2005, the same gallon has averaged $2.29, with prices in some areas spiking close to $4.00 in August and September after Hurricane Katrina disrupted supply from the Gulf Coast.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Big Money to Big Oil

As the oil industry continues to collect record profits from high oil and gasoline prices, President George Bush is poised to sign into law an energy bill that allows the oil companies to pay even less in taxes and less in royalties for publicly-owned resources. Meanwhile, the new energy law will exempt the oil industry from several environmental laws, allowing even the most profitable companies to pollute our waterways and drinking water.

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