The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have asked German car maker Volkswagen (VW) to build electric vehicles and a network of charging stations in the U.S. to atone for selling cars designed to cheat government-mandated emissions tests, according to unsourced reports in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
The reports state the EPA is currently in talks with Volkswagen, but previously the EPA planned to fine VW up to $18 billion. The paper does not cite any sources, but noted the agency could use provisions of the Clean Air Act to dictate compliance.
“Talks with the EPA are ongoing and we are not commenting on the contents and state of the negotiations,” a VW spokesman told Reuters.
Several of Volkswagen’s cars already feature electric motors. Welt am Sonntag did not report when or where VW and the EPA met.
“If the report is true, EPA is seeking some sort of electric vehicle production quota and also the implementation of a nationwide infrastructure to support electric vehicles, as a remedy for VW’s Clean Air Act violations,” William Yeatman, an economist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “What does the agency know about running a car plant or operating a nationwide network of vehicle battery chargers? For that matter, what does the Clean Air Act have to do with setting industrial policy? It’s an outlandish request at face value.”
VW was caught by the EPA last year after it rigged nearly 11 million diesel vehicles to emit up to 40 times legal pollution limits.
“The idea that an environmental regulatory agency can leverage an air quality control sanction into the nationalization of a foreign auto makers’ production schedule makes my head spin,” Yeatman continued.
The company plans to recall 8.5 million cars in Europe, and 500,000 in the U.S. as a result of the scandal. The company has been sued by the Department of Justice, VW’s CEO resigned over the incident and the company has taken a serious financial hit.
The scandal has spread across the auto-industry, casting doubt on the environmental efficacy of diesel engines, leading the governments of Germany and France to conduct spot-checks on diesel vehicles across their countries.
The EPA has a long history of using crises to expand its influence through power grabs of dubious legality, and economists have already compared the agency’s actions regarding VW to the agency’s Clean Power Plan.
“[T]he parallel to the Clean Power Plan is striking. There, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is openly bragging about how the agency is going to transform the energy business as if the EPA has any expertise whatsoever in running the electric grid,” Yeatman concluded. “We are increasingly worse off as a society as more industries succumb to central planners at the EPA.”
The agency’s Clean Power Plan, which attempted to regulate electricity generation, has been hit by a tidal wave of lawsuits from 26 different states. The Plan is expected to cost a staggering $41 billion annually, yet likely won’t have a large impact on global warming.
According to analysis by the libertarian Cato Institute, using models created by the EPA, the Clean Power Plan will only advert 0.019 degrees Celsius of warming by the year 2100, an amount so small it can’t be detected.
Volkswagen will present its final report on the cheating scandal in April.
An EPA official was contacted for comment, but refused to provide any statement on the record
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