Tag Archives: EPA

Why “Fake News” is Dangerous

It’s been no secret that one of Donald Trump’s issues has been his frequent conflict with the press. If a report is brought to his attention that criticizes him or disagrees with his viewpoints, then he has been known to call it fake news or suppress it if it is from a federal source. For example, Trump has placed a gag order on the EPA and the USDA, effectively silencing them (1). This is extremely dangerous and should be cause for a great deal of alarm.

What Trump is doing is blatantly interfering with 1st amendment rights and the freedom of speech. The purpose of a gag order is to keep certain government agencies from revealing sensitive information that could potentially cause America to suffer in terms of bodily harm. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture do not have that sort of information, not when they are releasing reports on things like global climate change and global warming.

“Trump has placed a gag order on the EPA and the USDA, effectively silencing them.” Photo from: https://confluence.journalism.wisc.edu

However, the reports that have been released, like the ones that say global climate change is real and that we should do something about it, directly go against Trump’s agenda and his claim that “global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese.” Trump doesn’t like it and he doesn’t want to hear it, so he abuses his power to restrict the voices of the EPA and the USDA. How long before he begins to do the same to news organizations he doesn’t like and calls “fake news”? Trump has already shown that he does not mind abusing his power to get what he wants or twisting things around to suit his needs. The gag orders he has placed on these federal agencies may only be the beginning, and he may soon go after any organization (or anyone) who disagrees with him. These are the first steps towards a dictatorship.

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/trump-administration-restricts-news-from-federal-scientists-at-usda-epa/

Volkswagen ‘clean diesel’ scheme

Volkswagen admitted to methodically cheating on U.S. air emissions tests for years, to make nearly half a million diesel cars seem cleaner-burning than they are, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday in citing violations that could add up to $18 billion in fines. The company said it has also been alerted from the Justice Department, which the EPA said could pursue legal action.

The automaker enlisted a strategy advertising the efficiency of their fun-to-drive, powerful, “clean diesel” vehicles. Diesel versions of their most popular cars comprise more than a quarter of the brand’s sales in the U.S. and are a vital part of the company’s strategy for meeting tougher U.S. fuel economy standards going to effect in coming years. VW chose to specialize in diesel technology instead of electrics or hybrids.

“They were counting heavily on diesels to meet the fuel-economy numbers,” Matt DeLorenzo said, managing editor for news at Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, California. “This brings that whole strategy into question.”

“Volkswagen admitted to methodically cheating on U.S. air pollution tests for years, to make nearly half a million diesel cars seem cleaner-burning than they are.

VW employed a sophisticated algorithm, installed in the emissions-control modules that could detect when a vehicle was undergoing official emissions testing and turn on full pollution controls. The EPA referred this algorithm a “defeat device.” During normal driving, the cars pollute 10 to 40 times the legal standard for NOx, a component in urban smog, the agency estimated.

Financial liability for the company is unclear. The EPA could fine the company $37,500 per violation of the law and harm to the environment, which could equate to over $18 billion in fines.

Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn resigned after the scandal, after almost a decade in charge, Winterkorn stepped down. He expressed that he accepted the consequences of the mushrooming scandal that has wiped $22 billion off the company’s market value.

In order to “fix” the issue, Volkswagen has said that most of the affected cars will just need a software update, presumably to the engine always runs during the EPA testing, and always meets emission standards. That’s bad for drivers, because to be NOx emission standards, the cars in test mode sacrificed some fuel economy and performance.

Volkswagen announced on Sunday that it was suspending the sales of cars in the United States that had the defeat device.

The investigation is still ongoing.

No scientists for EPA, thanks

In recent years some might find themselves in a minority as an American (specifically in a college community) supporting the federal government. A new bill was passed recently by our U.S. House of Representatives stating we should no longer use any ol’ scientist to tell the Environmental Protection Agency what is or isn’t safe. Instead, legislators feel it would be better for everyone if companies or industries referred their choice of scientists to advise the EPA on what would be the safest route regarding the environment and chemicals, etc.

This new legislation, now passed it’s first federal checkpoint, has been under consideration since 2013 and would prevent scientists from voting on advisory panels regarding the safety of any chemical on which they are working. Okay, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, right? But what it means is that research scientists would be barred from advising on any topic that might “directly or indirectly involve review and evaluation of their own work.”

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“Legislators feel it would be better for everyone if companies or industries referred their choice of scientists to advise the EPA on what would be the safest route regarding the environment and chemicals, etc.”

So the only people who wouldn’t be allowed to advise the EPA on a particular chemical (if the bill becomes a law) are those who have actually studied its toxicity or effect on the environment and understand its effects.

That sounds rational, right? Those who understand an issue best not being allowed to decide whether it is or isn’t safe?

The bill is part of a package of legislation by the House GOP in order to limit the EPA’s ability to issue new regulations. Their argument centers around EPA transparency and some stipulations of the package include making more of their research public record (including documents that may conflict with patient confidentiality) and reducing the EPA’s ability to update air pollution acts. Because we wouldn’t want them to keep changing those rules every time they got more information on the environment and our effect on it! It’s so annoying to prevent air pollution and create a safer world for our children.

However, according to Cristina Marcos of The Hill, “the White House issued a veto threat on Monday [Nov. 17] against the bill, saying it would ‘negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.'”

Good looking out, White House. Maybe next time the House of Representatives will hear “a bill  designed to prevent qualified, independent scientists from advising  the EPA” and also jump to “hey, this is a really stupid idea.”

Stricter Fuel-Efficiency Standards For American Vehicles

In a move that is being heralded by environmentalists and automakers alike, the Obama administration announced on Aug. 28, 2012 that new fuel-efficiency standards will require the U.S. auto fleet to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The standards also regulate carbon dioxide emissions, which allow 144 grams per mile for passenger cars and 203 grams per mile for trucks. Continue reading Stricter Fuel-Efficiency Standards For American Vehicles