Elon Musk and associates just wrote to the California Air Resources Board saying that rather than make VW fix its dirty diesels, it should make the company roll out electric cars faster. But to truly fix the problem, everyone — even those with famous names and big companies — should think about equity for those hit hardest. Volkswagen’s illegal pollution fouls air throughout California, but we know that Californians in disadvantaged communities are hardest hit.
Putting truly clean cars on the road is important, but they must reach the communities that need them most. We should be asking how Volkswagen can benefit those who most need the cleaner air and the economic and health benefits. Why aren’t we? As I wrote last month, if electric vehicles are a major part of the solution there are concrete things that Volkswagen should do to deploy electric vehicles to ensure their positive impact is felt by those who suffer the most.
The California Air Resources Board should consider the options set out in the open letter from Musk and associates, but the Board must prioritize solutions that use penalties assessed against VW to bring access to clean transportation and cleaner air to those who could benefit the most. MIT’s research has shown us that the excess pollution will contribute to 60 deaths across the country prematurely. There will not be environmental solutions unless we look at improving the lives of those poisoned.