In late September, Volkswagen admitted to using software that activated hardware to scrub nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions during required emissions tests, but not during normal driving. The deception improved the cars’ gas mileage at the cost of emitting between 10 and 40 times the legal limit of NOx, a precursor gas to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ammonia (NH3), and other gases that cause respiratory problems. In the last few years, newly maturing instruments of several kinds have converged on a single message: diesel exhaust in the real world is far higher than what carmakers advertise and what is permitted by the law in many countries.
A new pollution study in Europe using a van to chase other vehicles and measure their tailpipe emissions finds that newer, diesel-fueled, heavy trucks and buses emit, on average, 34% more of the health and climate hazard known as black carbon than older vehicles of the same types.
A century ago, Panama beat out Nicaragua to snag one of the biggest engineering projects of the age: a U.S.-backed canal that would link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, creating a shorter trade route between East and West. In 2014 — the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal’s completion — Nicaragua made plans for its own interoceanic linkage, which would be triple the length of Panama’s. If completed, the project could break Panama’s long- standing monopoly on the shipping trade in the region — but at a severe ecological price.
Nicaragua has great expectations for the Grand Canal, a US$50-billion, 5-year project to link its Caribbean and Pacific coasts with a 280-kilometre waterway. President Daniel Ortega and other supporters of the canal, who celebrated the start of construction on 22 December, say that it will generate much-needed income for residents of the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Continue reading