The dangers of emission standards

Wendelin Wiedeking, the Chief Executive of Porsche and Übergeneralfeldwebel of Joint Luftverschmutzung Kommand (mobile division) paused for a moment. He inhaled deeply on a cloud of exhaust fumes, donned a pair of goggles, released the clutch, and declared war on the European Union.

It was perfectly planned, with a precision only possible from a German engineer. No sooner had the words been spoken, televised live across the world from his bunker in a nameless Stuttgart suburb, than somewhere across the same city the doors of a solitary hangar slid open, and a phalanx of sixty military green Porsche Cayennes roared forth, turned onto the autobahn, and, as one, pointed their sleek noses northwest: destination Brussels.

By noon Squadron 666 had been met by Batallion 101 Mercedes, followed, at a respectful distance, by a fleet of Beetles from the VW hospital corps.

“Vi vill not tolerate zis attack on BMW, Mercedes, and ourselves” thundered Uberkommandant Wiedeking. “Zis is a business var in Europe.”

Some had seen the war coming. The Federal Socialist States of Europe, had long since given up emission trading and market mechanisms. While recognising the theoretical elegance of the market, those in power in Brussels had baulked when it came to implementation. Plump industrialists with thick Ruhrgebiet accents had begun to grumble about the cost of steel. Hungry workers at a power plant in Silesia had found a hoard of several million worthless European Union Allowances hidden in the chief engineer’s filing cabinet. Mistaking them for food ration cards, they had rioted.

Brussels shrugged, and the politicians sang their national anthem: “Well, we tried, yes we did try a little bit”.

Too cowardly to lead the people, too greedy to stand down, they instead imposed emission standards, by edict, on all walks of small business life.

The smooth oily skin of the petroleum barons and the electricity magnates deflected any regulatory scrutiny. So Brussels piled its witless frustration upon inventors of lightbulbs, designers of transistor radios, makers of wooden toys, wholesalers of knitting machines, specialised manufacturers of baked beans (automatic large company exemptions applied), spectacle case traders, glass engravers, and several other important emitters of greenhouse gasses. But in the end popular derision forced them to try and take on the luxury car makers.

Meanwhile in Stuttgart noone dared ask what was happening in that solitary hangar tucked away by the perimeter fence of the Porsche factory. A small Italian journalist lodged in the local inn, Zum Schwarzen Nebel, and began to ask a few questions, but he and his Fiat Cinquecento disappeared one rainy evening and no more was spoken about it. The station master turned a blind eye to the nighttime deliveries, during one dark and windy November week, of trainloads of matt khaki paint. He merely observed to his wife, over his beer and saussage, how queer it is the way fashions change.

Thus, in the backrooms of inns and pubs in towns and villages of Germany’s industrial hinterland, plans were laid with quiet discipline and calm determination. Yet even as the final battle plans were signed off by Wiedeking himself, regulation writers in Brussels, fuelled by expense account champagne flown-in from France, scribbled ever more frantically: a tragic, futile, frenzy of lawmaking; nothing but an angry, busy, figleaf impotently trying to cover the vast, bloated, body of an idle glutton.

It was a brief affair. Brussels capitulated without a whimper; Wiedeking became Wiedepresident, and SUVs were made obligatory; manufacturers of fuel efficient cars were rounded up and sent to labour camps where they dug lignite with their bare hands. It was transported to the mountains which had been cleared of forests, and burnt in vast pyres on the mountainsides. Windmill and hydroplant operators were tossed onto the bonfires. The flames could be seen from many miles, gruesome reminders of the power of the people, of the irresistible lure of the motor vehicle, and the frailty of our leaders.

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