Microsoft’s lawsuit dominates the headlines here, but elsewhere in the U.S., other companies are duking it out with the Department of Justice. Last week, the DOJ slapped Honda Motor Co. with a $17.1 million fine for violating the Clean Air Act.
No, it’s not just because Honda is an automobile manufacturer (although that should be reason enough). The California Air Resources Board and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caught Honda disabling the pollution monitoring equipment on its cars and vans. So much for limiting green house gases.
But wait, Honda is not the only culprit! Last week, in a separate action, the DOJ also slapped a $7.8 million fine on Ford Motor Co. for tampering with the emission controls on 60,000 Econoline vans so they’d register better gas mileage. It seems many drivers really do care how much gas they pour into their automobiles, in spite of what car manufacturers say to environmentalists. Unfortunately, the DOJ’s tiny fines (which amount to only a fraction of each company’s profits for a year) are just a slap on the wrist for this deceitful, disgusting, and illegal behavior.
It’s estimated that thousands of tons of additional pollution are produced by automobiles with disabled emissions control devices. But of course, Honda and Ford are concerned more for the tons of profits they make every year from high sales volume, so they tinker with their cars to make them more appealing and less safe. For example, Honda reset the computerized emission control monitor on its cars so that it failed to trigger a dashboard light when emission levels got too high. In short, the bottom line rules; forget about the quality of the air we breathe.
The extent of the tampering is astounding. The Honda models involved in the suit include: 1995 Accord, Acura NSX and Acura 2.5 TL models, and 1996 and 1997 Accord, Civic, Prelude, Odyssey, and Acura models. This was no manufacturing error; it was company policy. If you own or know someone who owns one of those cars, send it back to the dealer and demand that it be fixed for free. Better yet, demand a new car. That ought to get someone’s attention.
And just in case you’re thinking that other car manufacturers aren’t as bad: in 1995, General Motors lost its own case involving emissions tampering on 570,000 Cadillacs. Many other types of cars, especially older models, spew greenhouse gases at alarming rates. Legal limits have been set for newer models, but they’re arbitrarily high in Washington State, while older model cars are not required to pass emissions tests at all. It took a diligent investigator at the EPA several years to nail Honda, after their cars routinely failed emissions tests in California, where standards are much stricter than they are here.
Park your car and take the bus, ride a bike, or walk. You’ll breathe a little easier.