A story by Seth Borenstein at the Associated Press ("AP ANALYSIS: VW EVASION LIKELY LED TO DOZENS OF DEATHS"), originally published on Saturday but currently carrying a Monday morning time stamp, claimed that "Volkswagen's pollution-control chicanery" has been responsible for "killing between five and 20 people in the United States annually in recent years." Those results, based on an AP "statistical and computer analysis," "cleverly" recast the effort's raw results of "somewhere between 16 and 94 deaths over seven years."
Given how poorly supposedly sacrosanct computer models have done in predicting "global warming" trends, and how gullible journalists, especially Borenstein, have been all these years about them, it seemed quite wise to treat his VW "analysis" with caution. In an op-ed at Investor's Business Daily yesterday, Michael Fumento has demonstrated that such skepticism was warranted.
The outrage over VW's ruse, though wholly justified, is wildly out of proportion to the damage it has done.
In fact, Fumento's commentary hints that VW's illegal move may have saved lives.
But first, let look at his take on how shaky the AP claim is (bolds are mine):
Add Diesel Volkswagens To List Of Car Mass Hysteria
... VW knowingly broke the law and gained competitive advantage thereby. It deserves to be punished, and fear not! It's already lost $34 billion in stock value (more than a third) and now faces massive fines and class-action suits from owners.
... As for the rest of the "victims," almost everything you've been told is wrong. The emissions concern just nitrogen oxides (NOx).
... "The fact is the VW cheat added probably not more than 0.2% on-road NOx," University of Denver professor of chemistry Donald Stedman told me, based on his just-published research in Environmental Science & Technology magazine. When NOx combines with volatile organic compounds and bakes in sunlight, it can form ozone, which is the main component of smog, plus fine particulate matter.
... Indeed, according to the EPA, U.S. ozone levels have dropped by a third since 1980 — this even as road traffic has doubled in that time.
Nevertheless, that extra NOx from Volkswagens has killed "between five and 20 people in the United States annually in recent years, according to an Associated Press statistical and computer analysis."
Great! Epidemiology by journalists.
Given that more than a million Americans annually die of heart and pulmonary disease, that's like "estimating" to have found a needle in a haystack the size of Mount Everest.
Even the "expert" Borenstein consulted backed away from making a definitive statement, telling the AP reporter that "some people have died or likely died as a result of this." Uh, Seth, when someone won't even admit that some people have definitely died, you don't have a story — unless it's that the histrionics, at least as far as the U.S. is concerned, are unjustified.
But the kicker is in Fumento's understated punchline:
Diesel engines also last far longer than gasoline engines (there are Mercedes still going after 900,000 miles), and they have tremendous torque relative to engine size.
That means they accelerate much faster, which is not just fun but also a tremendous safety feature when passing on a two-lane road.
Wait a minute. If people are going to hyperventilate over a miniscule and unproven number of "likely" deaths from a very slight increase in nitrous oxide in a nation where that pollutant's level is one-third lower than it was 35 years ago, there should be equal time for all of the people who have "likely" avoided accidents and injuries because of VW's ruse. That's because, as the AP itself reported when the scandal broke, "the company was likely trying to reduce costs and improve performance." A big part of "performance" is the ability to "accelerate much faster" to avoid possible accidents (partially offset by those who might abuse that ability and harm themselves and others).
To those who would criticize the contentions in the previous paragraph, my response is: They're no better or worse than the claims the AP's Borenstein made in his hard-news "Oh my God, people have died!" story. Many people will unfortunately take Borenstein's clearly speculative contentions at face value.
As to "global warming" — the true believers' models so adored by Borenstein and his fellow journalists have predicted there would be a lot. There hasn't been any for almost 19 years, which they have found quite frustrating. So instead of trying to determine what's really happening, in "one of the most extraordinary scandals of our time," they've fiddled with the data to make it look like there has been lots of warming.
The "globaloney" computer modelers might consider working for the plaintiffs' bar in their lawsuits against VW. I'm sure the trial lawyers would love to get the help of expert data manipulators.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.