(from a post I put up on dailykos.com)

Some of us live in small towns and in the country, where $50,000 or less will buy you a decent home. The job picture is bleak in many of these rural places, minimum wage if you can find anything. So we make long commutes, 50 miles each way ain’t unusual, to bigger cities where our labor at least has a chance of being rewarded with a living wage. We’d like to live closer to work, but we can’t afford big city houses that start at $200,000 and the thousands a year in taxes on them. So we commute, often a 100 miles a day, 500 miles a week, 25,000 miles a year plus some other trips we can’t fit into our commutes and hopefully a vacation or at least getaway. In a big car, SUV, or pickup that gets 15 highway MPG on a good day going downhill with a tailwind, that translates into a couple thousand gallons of gas a year, at a cost of $6000 to $8000 a year until gas prices recently dropped. That’s at least 20% and often 30% or even 40% of our take home pay!

Then VW introduced affordable diesel cars and put thousands of dollars back in our pockets!

VW diesels are a valuable commodity out here, I’ve seen twenty year old rusted beyond repair”parts cars” get more bidders and higher prices than a quite restorable ‘58 Chevy hardtop. You have to really work at it to get less than 40 MPG with a 4 cylinder VW diesel, and being an industrial engine they’re rated for 10,000 hours before rebuild, which translates to around 400,000 to 500,000 miles in a car. Following VW tradition the transmissions are stout too, so maybe around a half million miles they start popping out of top gear… Just downshift and you’re good for another few hundred thousand miles. The bodies are galvanized steel, and VW guarantees them against rustout for 12 years, so they’re usually good for 20 years or more. Buy a 5 year old with 100,000 miles for less than half of new price, and you’re set for a decade or more of economical commuting. No wonder on the highways heading from the country into the city you’ll see an over representation of VW diesels during rush hour!

Then VW screwed up and put some cheat code in the engine control software of the 2009 and later TDI diesels. VW was caught and is being rightfully punished. But us innocent folks who bought VW TDIs are being punished too- The EPA is taking our 40 MPG economy cars away. We are being offered a buyout from VW, and in many cases the deal isn’t bad-  I’m being offered almost as much as I paid for my 2013 TDI diesel 33,000 miles and 3 years ago. Theoretically there is an option to have the car fixed to comply with emissions laws, but no fixed has been approved and the EPA has perversely rigged the incentives by making the fixed cars pass a higher emissions standard than new ones and offering more generous financial incentives for turning these cars in to be scrapped rather than fixed. Theoretically we could also ignore the buyback and recall and just keep driving, but many states will not allow us to re-register our cars until any uncompleted recalls are done. So the EPA is effectively taking our 40 MPG economy cars away.

Now if it weren’t for the underwater loans and the gap between what we’ll get paid when we turn in our cars and what we’d have to pay for a new one, this situation might almost be tolerable. A lot of us paid $10,000 or so for our used TDIs, and it will be nice to get that refunded by VW… But the EPA won’t certify any new 40 MPG TDIs for us to replace our old ones with, and $10,000 on the used car market will barely get you a hybrid or electric car with a dying battery or a 25 MPG Focus or Cruze, and none of them have the hauling ability or durability of a VW diesel. Electric cars don’t have the range for 100 mile round trip commutes, and we don’t make enough to qualify for their lucrative tax credits. Hybrids have little or no MPG advantage for highway commutes, so they’re a waste of precious $$$ for us.

So thanks to the EPA, we’ll be spending thousands more of our hard earned dollars just getting to work each year. There has to be a better way… Fix the cars to comply as best as possible. If they still don’t meet the emissions standards, grandfather them in until they’re worn out and scrapped and make VW offset their emissions in other ways. Heck, in everything but NOX emissions, VW TDI diesels are environmental all-stars, and prematurely scrapping a car wastes much of the considerable energy and emissions that went into it’s manufacture. Better to have VW fund a “cash for clunkers” buyback that would take the dirtiest and thirstiest vehicles off the road and give their hard working owners thriftier vehicles at minimal cost.

So EPA, instead of using VW for your whipping boy and sending hundreds of thousands of our economy cars to the scrapheaps, could you do something for the environment and working folks instead?

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