Why a diesel powered car can never be “green” let alone the green car of the year


Last week the Green Car Journal named the all-new Audi A3 TDI as their 2010 Green Car of the Year. This is the second year in a row that a diesel powered car has been honored with the distinction of not only being environmentally friendly, but in fact the most environmentally friendly "green car" of the year.

What a bunch of poppycock!

There is very little (if anything) particularly green about a car that converts fossil fuel to air polluting particulates, sulfur, nitrogen oxide, and carbon. 

Let me put it another way. Calling a diesel car green is like calling nuclear power safe.

Sure, nuclear power may be safe until of course you have a radiation leak like Four Mile Island or a melt down like Chernobyl. Or, until you have to dispose of the spent and highly radioactive nuclear fuel which remains extremely toxic and deadly to all forms of life for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years.

In the same way a diesel engine is green until you sell tens, if not hundreds of thousands of them, and they remain on the roads for many long years after which the engines degrade and the fail safe particulate filters, urea injection, and carbon and sulfur scrubbers fail…or more likely are not kept up by their owners.

Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the 2010 Audi A3 TDI, it is a well crafted and exceptionally executed car that will make many a new owner very happy…it is just not green!

Of course in a perfect world a true "green car" would be 100 percent recyclable and powered by electricity that would come from clean renewable energy source like solar panels which would most likely be fitted on the roof of a home or business.

KUWAIT-10009 There would be no drilling for oil, or shipping of oil…which creates monumental environmental destruction and pollution when spilled in pristine wilderness (like the Exxon Valdez), or when set a blaze by armies (like Sadam's retreating forces in Gulf War I), or used to promote this or that foreign political agenda (like..well you know).

There would be no refining of oil into diesel (or petroleum as a mater of fact) which at best creates toxic air pollution that fouls the skies over Houston, or at worst explodes into uncontrollable infernos that incinerate workers and gives firefighters nightmares.

And of course, and perhaps most importantly of all, there would be no burning of our most valuable, useful, natural, and finite resource.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that oil is quickly running out.

More importantly we always seem to forget we use oil to fertilize our nation's, and the to a large extent the world's bread basket, and of course we make that most useful and pliable of all materials, plastic, out of oil.

If and when we burn the last drop of oil in our "green cars" we'll be facing a much worse crisis than just simply figuring out how to get to work.

So yes, "the groundbreaking TDI 2.0 engine available in the A3 delivers 140 hp
and 236 lb-ft of torque, yet achieves an EPA-estimated 42 mpg highway
fuel economy that is the best of any luxury car sold in America,
" as stated in Audi's recent press release.

But the all new Toyota Prius get's and EPA-estimated 50 mpg, and the all electric Tesla Roadster, even given the fact that it often uses electricity from coal fired power plants, leaves a comparatively tiny ecological footprint in the sand when compared to the Audi A3 TDI.

Both of these cars look to the rapidly approaching future of car technology. But no matter how good and efficient the diesel engine becomes it still harkens back to the days of the industrial revolution.

Isn't it time for the automotive judges and editors of the "Green Car of the Year Award" to look forward in time to the future of the car, instead of backwards to its past?

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Roman Roman Mica is a columnist, journalist, and author, who spent his early
years driving fast on the German autobahn. When he's not reviewing cars
for the active set, you can find him training for triathlons and
writing about endurance sports for, EverymanTri.com.