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The Flow

June 28, 2017

Lately, life has been extremely chaotic for me. Not so much in a negative sense, but situations keep spiraling into different directions at time warp speed. The energy in and of itself is exhilarating at times, I will admit. Maybe it’s the rush of adrenalin that surges through my blood stream making its way to my dome, releasing those magical endorphins that produces my natural high. I know it sounds odd, and I am not saying that I thrive on chaos nor am I am advocate to be in a state of constant influx . . . but life is like that. So, I decided I can either roll with the flow or let the chaos roll over me.

The latter is not an option for me. Therefore, I chose to submerge myself fully into this body of water we call life and become drenched in all it must offer me, throw at me, never taking from me but always adding to me. I am learning to feel the energy of dark matter. Dark matter is not just in the outer reaches of space, yet it is everywhere on earth filling in the nooks and crannies of this realm as well. I intuit the dark matter as I sit at my dining room table to eat a meal over candlelight and the only other two guests invited are my thoughts and dark matter. This wonderfully strange matter allows me to experience sort of an out-of-body experience giving way to a deeper connection with my creator.

My creator. Wow. Isn’t that what this thing called life with all its chaos and all its synchronicities is all about? Yes, it is. Our creator is . . . dark matter. Dark matter is the flow. I know without knowing because I accept the energy of the chaos and the rapid pace that my life is moving at. To go against the grain as they say, or to swim incongruently with the tide is madness. Madness is what takes us to the brink of destruction and ruin, even on a small-scale with our own little lives. I say little not to offend, but to show how insignificant our personal chaos is when we compare it to what is going on in the world on a grander scale. As I sit in front of this computer, feeling the warmth of the sun from the window, hearing the soft click, click, click as my nails hit the keys, I am transformed into a moment of solitude, before this day can deliver any chaos. I am one with the energy engulfing me . . . co-creating with the flow.

Sonya Marie Bowman is a writer of positive prose for the Milwaukee Community Journal and a published co-author of the book No Artificial Ingredients – Reflections Unplugged. She is a member of Sister Speak, a trilogy of writers who formed in 2010 with a vision of self-expression and a goal of healing. The trio states they are inspired by grace, allowing them to take a genuine position on the struggles and successes of everyday living.

What’s Cookin’? Rhubarb!

June 23, 2017

I always enjoy sharing my favorite recipes, especially when there’s a story behind the meals and desserts that grace the table. With rhubarb season here, one of my favorite desserts crafted from this late spring/early summer plant is rhubarb crunch, and I have the Milwaukee Brewers to thank.

Like most Milwaukeeans over the age of 40, I vividly remember the 1982 World Series. The whole town went Brewers Blue and the suds flowed as we cheered on The Crew to victory over the California Angels (now known as the Los Angeles Angels) in the American League Championship series. Unfortunately, the Brew Crew lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, but that didn’t stop people from wanting all things Brewers-related, from caps, shirts, buttons, and even candy bars and hot dogs packaged with the Brewers famous ball and glove logo—and cookbooks.

Over the years, the Brewers’ wives have done incredible charity work for the community. In 1983, the women compiled a cookbook, What’s Cookin’ with the Brewers’ Wives? as a fundraising project. Our household never owned a copy, but our downstairs neighbor at the time immediately ordered the book and shared the recipes with us. We tried many of the recipes, and a favorite turned out to be Sue Gantner’s recipe for rhubarb crunch. To this day, the dessert is still a home run with everyone I serve it to, and whenever I take a bite, I always think of that glorious 1982 Brewers season and how a baseball team united a city. And better yet, our young 2017 Brew Crew is on track to a winning season, so be ready to turn the town blue again!

Rhubarb Crunch (Sue Gantner – What’s Cookin’ with the Brewers’ Wives c. 1983)

 4 c. fresh rhubarb pieces (about 2 pounds)

2 c. sugar, divided

1 c. + 2 T. flour, divided

2 T. butter, softened

1 t. baking powder

¼ t. salt

1 egg, beaten

¼ c. dry oats

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9” baking dish. Combine rhubarb, 1 c. of the sugar, 2 T. flour, and butter. Place rhubarb mixture in baking dish and spread evenly. Mix remaining 1 c. sugar, 1 c. flour, baking powder, salt, egg, and oats, and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle flour mixture over rhubarb and shake down into pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool on rack.

  • For a vegan version, try Earth Balance butter and egg substitute – works great!

Sheila Julson is a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings magazine.




Try Asparagus for Healthy Summer Grilling

May 31, 2017

Memorial Day weekend has officially kicked off the beginning of summer, and for three glorious months, we Wisconsinites can celebrate fun in the sun, enjoying outdoor gatherings with family and friends. With summer also comes grilling season, giving foodies and backyard chefs a chance to shine and experiment with more healthy options one typically wouldn’t consider grilled food, such as asparagus.

Asparagus is only available locally for a short time, and I take advantage of it by making everything from asparagus quiche to casseroles, pastas, and anything else I can think of. Asparagus is also great grilled, as I discovered when experimenting with a recipe I found several years ago while paging through an issue of Vegetarian Times.

Besides being a tasty side dish, asparagus is a good source of fiber and vitamins A, C, E, and K. It’s also loaded with antioxidants, it has lots of fiber, and it’s a natural diuretic. Instead of chips or potato salad, consider asparagus as a healthy side option for summer grilling meals. Cheers to a happy and healthy summer!

Grilled Sesame Asparagus (adapted from Vegetarian Times]

1 pound of asparagus

2 T. light sesame oil

1 T. low-sodium tamari sauce

½ t. minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T. sesame seeds

Aluminum foil (for grill pouch)

Snap the thick, tough ends off of washed asparagus and discard. Cut asparagus spears into three-inch pieces (for a decorative presentation, cut stalks on an angle). Put stalks on a sheet of aluminum foil. In a bowl, whisk together sesame oil, tamari sauce, garlic, and salt and pepper and drizzle over asparagus spears. Fold foil over stalks to make a grill pouch.

Set pouch aside for about 20 minutes before grilling to let the flavors marinate. Place pouch on hot grate and grill for about three minutes. Flip pouch and grill for another three minutes. Remove from heat and test asparagus spears with a fork; if fork pierces the asparagus spears easily, they’re done; if not, return to grill for another minute or so. (Grill times may slightly vary, depending on the thickness of the spears.) Sprinkle asparagus with sesame seeds, fold pouch again and let sit for about a minute before serving.

Sheila Julson is a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings magazine.

The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource: Part 2 – Distribution and Delivery

May 3, 2017

Source: Water must sometimes travel over hundreds of miles in distance to reach those that depend on it the most. What is the real price of distribution and delivery of fresh drinking water, and how do we protect clean drinking water from being contaminated during its journey towards its final destination?

Water—without it, our society comes to a screeching halt. This natural resource is foundational for our existence in life, and the vast majority of our way of being depends upon it. From manufacturing to food production, water is a vital requirement in aiding us to feed our planet and build the modern conveniences of today. Water is our most precious resource on planet earth, yet we put our future at risk every time we either waste this valuable commodity, and/or abuse it with pollutants.

Half of the United States depends on clean, fresh water sources that must be redistributed from another area of the country, sometimes having to travel hundreds of miles from its original source. With this journey, water faces another set of risks, including the risk of being contaminated during its travel to its final point of delivery to the consumer. Aging infrastructure is at the center of attention, with recent series of circumstances of lead contamination in water supplies for the cities of Flint, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey, for which this corresponding issue runs parallel with the issue of available clean fresh drinking water.

A stressed economy, metro centers with aged infrastructure and a shrinking population, only compound the mounting complications on how to fund and fix decaying pipes and waterways. In the instance of Flint, it’s not the distance in which the water must travel that is the issue, but how the water must get to end users. Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, stated that it would take over $1.5 billion dollars to update the infrastructure that carries fresh water supply to residents and businesses in the region. In a report published on March 21, 2016, it was found that the aging pipes that carried Flint’s water supply to residents contained lead and were contaminating the water. The decaying pipes would leak traces of lead into the water supply, which would then affect the quality of water at the faucet. The complete report can be reviewed by clicking here.

In other parts of the United States, such as the barren Southwest, entire communities are facing major water shortages. This includes the “four corner” states of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. Each have faced rapid population growth in the cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix, Santa Fe, and Salt Lake City, all which are major urban metro centers that rely on water sources as far away as Colorado. As these urban center populations grow, infrastructure and the demand for clean fresh water increase, while the main supply—the Colorado River, becomes overtaxed and dwindles. New residents that locate to these metro areas forget that these cities are in the desert, and bring with them the introduction of plant life and urban landscape not native or natural to the area. As more homes and lawns are added to the system, the demand for water rises. Residents must make choices about curb appeal sacrifices in the name of water conservation.

Over the past few years, California has also faced an ongoing water crisis. The amount of record rainfall needed to naturally sustain Southern California and its agriculture industry has been far below the norms. Urban zones like Los Angeles and San Diego have seen a rise in population growth. With the lack of rainfall, California is facing serious water shortage concerns. California is home to 70 percent of the nation’s fresh fruits and nuts, and 55 percent of the nation’s vegetable supply. Many parts of the state have instituted water restrictions on watering of lawns and washing of cars and sidewalks; however, these practices are too little too late. As of recent, California has been getting water from water supplies that are tied to the Sierra Mountains of Nevada in order to meet growing, clean, freshwater demands.

The further fresh clean drinking water must travel, the greater its risk to becoming contaminated along the way. In West Virginia, the Elk River was recently polluted by a manufacturing company found to be dumping pollutants, which made its way into the waterway. This water is the main source of fresh clean drinking water for Central West Virginia. The further water must travel to the point of delivery the more filtration systems will need to be added to the system before the water is deemed potable.

New York City, home to over 8.5 million people, gets its drinking water from Upstate New York. This means water must first travel up to 125 miles before it is processed and filtered, then sent to kitchens and bathrooms all over the five boroughs.

So what standards are in place to assure that the water which has traveled hundreds of miles is the same or better quality as it is at the source? In the case of New York City, since most of the water is naturally filtered through a series of watershed areas, their water is relatively clean. NYC did begin to build a new state of the art water filtration plant known as the Croton Water Filtration Project. There are some aging issues within the infrastructure, resulting in over 36 million gallons of clean, fresh, drinking water lost to leaking each day.

In Flint, it’s a much different story. In order to save money, Flint began to source its water from the Flint River, which contains significant amount of chlorides, a corrosive agent to lead pipes. The filtration systems in place were in fact functional, but when the water had traveled through the aging infrastructure, lead began to end up in water coming out of the tap. Since this issue was brought to light, the City of Flint switched back to their original water source—water from Lake Huron.

Other types of technology are currently being explored regarding purification and redistribution of wastewater into a usable water source. These processes would be applied for building cooling systems and refrigeration, irrigation for agriculture, and/or water for manufacturing or maintenance needs. The outcome would provide clean, fresh, water dedicated for drinking, and can be preserved solely for human consumption. Gray water is water from showers, laundry, sinks, and other non-sewage sources. Though this water cannot be digested by humans, it can be reused for the purposes of toilet water, irrigation, laundry, and car washes. Both biological and mechanical filtration systems are utilized in filtering and purifying gray water so it can be used again.

Sea and ocean water are being considered in places located near these sources, and where water is absolutely scarce. The process of removing saline, salt, and other harmful agents from sea or salt water is already used on ships and submarines. As it stands, 1 percent of the world’s population relies on this process for clean drinking water; however, it is estimated by 2025, over 14 percent of the world’s population will be getting their drinking water from desalination.

As our population grows, and our access to clean fresh drinking water dwindles, the market of bottled water for sale will skyrocket. Our society has been trained by consumer habit and a strong marketing effort, where we now expect ourselves to purchase a case of bottled water as part of our practice when shopping for groceries. Though these sources of water seem to be a bit better and trusted than scooping up water from our local lake or stream, not all bottled water is created equal.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resourceand Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Homeless and Displaced Veterans: America’s Hidden Pandemic

April 24, 2017

Source: As a nation, our society faces many insurmountable challenges; however one of our most pressing issues that affect the quality of life in communities is the rapid rise in veteran displacement and homelessness. Sam Burlum examines what is at the core of this issue and the available resources in solving this matter.

The statistics are alarming; beyond alarming. It’s as if the alarm has been signaling to our great nation, yet many of us decided to turn the radio up, similar to when we hear that irritating noise our car may make when it needs a repair, however at that time it is easier to ignore it than be inconvenienced by taking time out to solve the problem. Veteran homelessness is rising at an unprecedented rate. Even with the number of nonprofit organizations that outreach to homeless veterans aimed at getting them off the street and into a home and/or back to work, the amount of homeless veterans outpace the investment of time it takes to reach a veteran and get their situation resolved.

The National Alliance for Homelessness published their report in 2014, in which they sampled homeless populations in which were reported across the nation, whereas one January 2013 night, over 610,042 individuals experienced homelessness. Veterans accounted for about 10 percent of this total figure, or around 60,000 veterans were accounted for as reported to be homeless. Currently there are just less than 400,000 retired military personnel, who include former enlisted personnel, officers, and related staff whom received military retiree benefits. Also included in this demographic are disabled veterans, and veterans that suffer from mental illness. That means over 15 percent of this population are homeless. Like I mentioned, that is only those that have reported to be homeless.

There are a number of homeless veterans whom either go unnoticed or refuse to reach out for help for a number of reasons. The largest contributor to why most non-reporting homeless veterans refuse or hide from help relates to mental health. The largest mental health issue that diminishes this demographics’ ability to function in society, able to integrate back into civilian life, is post traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. The number of veterans affected by PTSD depends on the era they served, as indicated by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Over twenty percent of veterans (about 500,000) whom served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have experienced PTSD. This has increased from the Gulf War, where only twelve percent of the military (about 84,000 veterans) served had PTSD. As it relates those military personnel whom served in Vietnam, a more recent study demonstrated over 30 percent of returning Veterans (about 770,000) had admitted and/or were diagnosed with PTSD. Prior to Vietnam, very few statistics were kept on this subject matter. The numbers of homeless veterans that stem from the demographic of those that served in Vietnam and those that served during Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom are so parallel in spite of gap between the ages of generations that served.

So what is the cause of PTSD? And how do we solve this pandemic issue that is in every corner of the United States? PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event; either experiencing it or witnessing it, according to the Mayo Clinic. However Jake Clark, Founder of Save A Warrior, has a different view.

“PTSD is not a condition of the mind or a mental health issue. What we have found, is PTSD is a condition that the inner heart and emotional state must be healed of the wounds and stresses of battle that impact so many whom hide their emotions from family, friends, and fellow colleagues in fear of being mocked,” added Clark.

“We focus on bringing peace to heart and then mind, so our cohorts can now come to terms with the things they had to deal with as a part of battle, first touching upon the inner peace of themselves, learning to forgive themselves, then others. Save A Warrior has had a 100 percent success rate without having to use the normal aids of prescription drugs,” continued Clark during an interview with Sam Burlum a few years ago at the SAW Facility in Malibu, California.

“Veterans are either too scared or are too embarrassed to ask for help, and so we need to reach out to the community and their families to bring them out of hiding and into the light so we can offer them all the assistance that we have available,” provided Sandy Mitchell, founder of Project Help, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that delivers on a number of veteran assistant services including clothing drives, fundraisers and lending a hand to other causes where proceeds directly benefit veterans in need.

Veterans have disclosed to this investigate reporter that it has taken them years to get help from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). “Gerry” (he did not want to reveal his complete name for this interview), was a veteran whom served late in the Vietnam Campaign, and continued to serve in the military until the mid-1980s.

“It took me years just to get someone at the VA to give me an answer on how I can access my benefits. When I finally did get access, I waited for what felt like forever to get medical assistance for aliments I had related to my service in the field,” shared Gerry, “I see in regular hospital, illegal immigrants whom don’t speak a word of English get better care than I whom served this country.”

“I can’t believe after eight years of service in the navy, it took the administration another two to four years to just get my application in front of an advocate and case worker. If I were a criminal, I would have had service afforded to me right away,” added Matthew B., from New Jersey, a veteran of the navy whom served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. “It’s no reason why this system has to be so complicated. When you complain about it, it seems then magically your application gets lost or you go to the back of the line. Who wants to sign up to serve in the military if we are treated like second-class citizens,” questioned Matthew.

The VA has defended its position, in saying, “There is a process in which each veteran’s needs must follow a protocol in order for the need to be addressed, and we have limited resources available,” when called the VA Hospital in East Orange, New Jersey, as the receptionist refused to provide her name.

According to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the 2017 Budget for the VA is over $182.3 billion dollars, a far cry from poverty in which homeless veterans experience. So with so many dollars dedicated to the VA, one would have to ask the question, “why are so many Veteran’s homeless and/or displaced?”

It seems like when our nation needs to focus on solving these pandemic and systemic issues, we have turned a blind eye and worries more about what how a professional football player decides to make a political statement. It is civic our duty to hold our political leaders to a vow of assisting our nation’s veterans.

Without a doubt, men and women whom put their lives on the line to fight and defend the freedoms and civil liberties afforded to us under the U.S. Constitution, deserve better. Each of us that did not serve in battle or in uniform should take notice to this rising tide. It is our duty and our privilege to serve those whom fought on our behalf. We have a responsibility to do so. What message are we sending to young men and women that would have considered joining the military, when we cannot care for those properly that return home from the battlefield? That is the battle on the homeland that now matters the most.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resourceand Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Motorsports Marketing No Longer Just for NASCAR

April 17, 2017

Source: Motorsports Marketing and Race Car Sponsorship no longer just apply to the race teams involved in the top stock car sanction body, NASCAR. Many local and regional businesses are finding value in advertising and supporting racing teams involved in other forms of competition.

Travel to any local dirt or asphalt circle racing track on a Friday or Saturday night and you will find race cars, full fender and open wheel, covered in flashy graphics and logos of businesses and companies you may have never heard of. Local and regional businesses such as RV Escape from Branchville, New Jersey, a company that sells and rents travel trailers and recreation vehicles, to Halmar International, a construction company with corporate offices located in Nanuet, New York; have devoted themselves to all-out race car team sponsorship programs. Race tracks like those of the Orange County Fair Speedway, Middletown, New York, are built to accommodate tens of thousands of race fans, many whom reside within a 50 mile radius of the speedway dubbed the “Hard Clay.”

With over 20 regularly schedule races over a given race season, means direct exposure of brands, businesses, products and/or services to race fans whom attend such race events. From the hobby class entry-level form of stock car racing, street stock-pure stocks, to the upper tier of regional dirt track racing divisions, big-block modified division, you will find cars donned in advertising from local pizza shops to large regional and national companies. Businesses have discovered the value of race car and racing team sponsorship, which in the past was usually reserved for the elite of racing communities, are now a part of doing daily business in order to compete for local championships. Racing teams are competing just as much off the track as they are on the track, for sponsorship dollars, mainly because there are so few businesses available with marketing and advertising budgets for promoting their products and services at sporting events.

Businesses are finding bargains at local and regional speedways and are seeing a higher return on investment on their sponsorship dollars. Companies are getting far more for their advertising dollar, because the local or regional racer has realized in order to gain a commitment from a business for sponsorship, they must offer much more than just spot on the car for logo placement. Drivers, their teams, and their car have been making themselves available for talent appearances, where they are on site at an event on behalf of the sponsor. Drivers are finding that they are asked to participate in the creation of marketing and advertising collateral such as print ads, video, photos, and social media; repurposed for targeting audiences who have an interest in auto racing and may be potential customers of sponsor’s products.

Racecar sponsorship has transformed from donating a few dollars to an individual who is conducting a fundraising drive so he or she can race; to a full-time job and business of offering a suite of advertising and marketing services to potential corporate sponsors. The evolution has been long coming. There are two major factors to this change. Attendance is up at the local and regional speedways where seats at NASCAR races have gone empty. The economy has been playing a role in the transfer of race fans since the price of admission to NASCAR events are out of reach for the average working class family. So they have been making their way to second best; the local dirt speedway in their own back yard. With the transfer of race fans, brings higher potential customer conversion ratios; so dollar for dollar advertising reach is increasing.

Another factor is that more businesses are searching for creative ways to reach potential customers, where they aim to maximize their advertising dollar. A full-page ad in the local newspaper could cost upwards of $2,000 for a one-time print. That newspaper will usually stay in front of the subscriber for less than a week before it finds its way into the recycle bin. A local business or regional company can enter into an agreement with a local racer for that same amount of money, could have their logo placed on the side of a racer’s vehicle, race car trailer, back of their uniform, on the racer’s website or social media page, and in an unlimited number of pictures taken by race fans.

A night’s worth the full schedule of race events could last up to six hours of entertainment. Most speedways can seat up to 2,500 race fans. If you calculate advertising reach, a business can touch potential future clients for less than .80 cents per person. That is less than the cost of most paid per click ads banner ads on the internet. Calculate that number of race fans multiplied by 20 races divided by your sponsorship commitment (dollar amount) and you can calculate your return on investment per reach. Based on an entire season, if exposed to 50,000 race fans over the term of the race season, a business that spends $2,000 on a sponsorship package would reach each potential consumer for less than .04 cents per race fan per race.

You will find more businesses adopting some level of motor sports marketing program as a part of their marketing/advertising mix. From new and used car dealers to now-regional products like Extreme Kleaner, can be found advertising their brands on local race cars. Some events are captured on video and are syndicated on YouTube and on social media. These are marketing outlets not available to sponsors just a decade ago.

“In order to compete in a regularly scheduled season, and race up front, you must have the sponsor dollars behind you. Racers are willing to be more accommodating to businesses whom choose to put their advertising dollars at work on the side of a race car,” added Tommy Vigh Jr., long time driver at the Orange County Fair Speedway, Middletown, New York.

“What use to be a hobby, is almost a full-time job,” contributed local stock car racer Ron Constable from Layfette, New Jersey, “One will put in just as much work in the shop as is spent behind the wheel. The cost has risen sharply over the last few years so now we must be willing to give more to businesses for their sponsor dollars.”

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Samuel K. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resourceand Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

What was the Real Root of the Automotive Industry Emissions Scandal?

April 10, 2017

Source: With the list of automobile manufactures that had “cheated” on their vehicle emissions and/or fuel economy results growing weekly, many are quick to criticize the auto industry; however, is there more behind the reasoning why so many manufactures had allegedly lied about their results? We take a look at several factors that contributed to this systemic issue.

First there was Volkswagen, which included all of the VW Group (Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Porsche, Ducati, Scania, Seat, and Skoda); then there was Mercedes; then fell Mitsubishi, joined by Fiat, Peugeot, Renault, Hyundai and Kia, BMW, and even American vehicle manufacture mainstays Ford and General Motors offered their fair share of having to make amends with consumers for representing false fuel economy and/or emissions results on their window stickers. You would think that these corporations with vast research and development departments would be able to breeze through testing protocols with ease, however many of them still have not been able to obtain the peak efficiencies to meet mandated benchmarks. Or is the problem more complicated than that? So with so many manufacturers having this issue, what is the core of the problem?

My own investigative research has found there are a number of factors which has contributed to the auto industry having issues during testing their products; some which are technical in nature, and some which are due to the complicated regulation in place which pushes the envelope beyond reason.  Some of the pre-existing market conditions are responsible for manufacturers having to push their limits in order to stay competitive.

Manufacturers have had to put their reputations at risk in order not to be responsible for hefty gas guzzling taxes and pollution penalties associated with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (known as CAFÉ), and GHG emissions standards.  Traditionally, these standards would be raised incrementally, so manufactures were given ample time to develop technology that would help engines become more efficient without compromising either better fuel economy or vehicle performance. In 2009, it was announced that vehicle manufactures would have to jump up from 22.5 miles per gallon average, to 35 miles per gallon by 2016. In 2011, the Obama Administration announced that that standard would now be pushed up to 54.5 miles per gallon average by year 2025. Vehicles models with a higher gas guzzler tax would suffer a slide in sales due to consumers not wanting to pay the extra price for not meeting these benchmarks.

This cat and mouse game did not begin in 2015 with the VW scandal; it has gone on since these two sets of standards, both CAFÉ and GHG, were introduced in 1975 and 1978, respectively. Since these laws were instituted, Cadillac in 1995 had its bout with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the issue of pollution controls related to the line of 4.9-liter V-8 engines. The company then, General Motors was forced to cough up a whopping $45 million over to the U.S. EPA to settle out the matter. In 1998 the diesel engine manufactures of Caterpillar, Cummings, Detroit Diesel, Mack, International, Volvo and others had to deal with a major investigation into their potential violations of environmental laws under the Clean Air Act, which cost the companies combined over $1 billion dollars, which was doled out to regulatory civil penalties. That same year, Ford and Honda had their rounds with the U.S. Justice Department over emissions control manipulation.

I predicted that when VW was found to be allegedly cheating on their results, that this was just the beginning. There would be more car manufactures that would either be investigated, or would come forth on their own as a good faith measure in exchange for leniency on fines and penalties. But the issue is larger than just manufactures using tactics to “cheat.” It is like the unspoken issue auto racing—in order to catch the cheaters, you must sometimes cheat yourself. But why cheat when you can innovate or adopt innovation from third-party sources?

When one manufacturer hears that another manufacturer just achieved x-number of more miles per gallon more out of their product, and that number exceeds the current record holder, the competitive race is on to catch up to the adversary. With limited market share of car buyers in the world, the United States being one of the largest markets in the world (having over 300 million vehicles on the American roads, that is one car per-person, regardless of age and their eligibility to drive), it is no wonder why manufacturers are willing to take such risk. There are over 28 major brands of vehicles which account for 80 percent of the entire new vehicles manufactured in the world (65 million new vehicles manufactured in 2012); over 7 million were sold in the United States. In order to capture market share, manufacturers have had to find ways to better market their product, even if that meant exaggerating their emissions and fuel economy results. Once another vehicle manufacture would one-up everyone, then it forced others to follow.

Part in of the issue is self-pride. No manufacturer after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development, wants to tell their shareholders that they could not meet regulatory benchmarks and that instead of paying out to dividends, net earnings would now have to fork over taxes, penalties and fines for not meeting regulatory benchmarks. In some cases, manufacturers don’t want to admit that they cannot solve the problem. When millions of dollars are dedicated to a program, such as emissions reduction innovation, most companies desire to develop their own solutions than go outside their labs. This becomes more of a pride issue which in turn becomes a momentary issue. The last person to turn to outside research and development teams as an answer to expedite product development on a wide scale was Lee Iacocca while he led Chrysler.

The public policy and incentive based policies where vehicle manufacturers would get special tax credits that could be passed down to consumers, only amplified the situation. As each manufacturer jockeyed for position of whom was going to be first in line for these incentives that could push the market toward potential consumers, this would be a tactical advantage for any auto manufacturer that could capture the lion’s share of incentives, thus driving the sticker price down for consumers at the time of their new vehicle purchase.

Then there is the technical perspective of why vehicle manufacturers “cheated,” or did they not “cheat” at all, but were trying to follow one set of guidelines, which forced them to have to tweak other programs in order to meet these more stringent regulations? Here is where it gets complicated, and so I will do my best to present these arguments in laymen terms.

When vehicle inspection procedures were changed from having to test vehicle pollution and emissions at the tailpipe to having to be checked via the car’s on-board diagnostic port (OBD), the rules of engagement significantly changed for the auto industry. Auto manufactures had to adopt computer protocols, a system of Readiness Monitors and drive cycles that must cycle completely in order for the vehicle to come into compliance before it is able to either be tested for a repair verification, or worst yet, a regulatory emissions test. These protocols can sometimes conflict with the existing engine controls and components on a vehicle and in order for one to be functioning, sometimes other controls and/or modules have to be delayed or shut off for an extended period of time. In some cases, this very protocol is conflicting with other mandated protocols. This is where the technical confusion begins to be introduced.

I also argue that some of the testing procedures are out of date. The auto industry has evolved where your vehicle is a giant computer with an engine attached, and as a result there are far more variables to take into consideration, such as all the added technology, yet these tests protocols for emissions and fuel economy have not changed since their introduction. Some of these test are incapable of measuring the true impact of some of the added-on technology manufacturers have adopted in order to make the engine run more efficient. I had personally experienced this when we were conducting test for retrofit emissions technology formally under development, called the Smart Emissions Reducer.

Then there is the issue of “cold start” conditions. This is when a vehicle emissions is looked at when a vehicle is to be tested after sitting for a period of 24 hours, the vehicle is tested at start-up for emissions and is ran through a series of testing procedures until the vehicle reaches benchmarks of operational speeds, and then is brought back down to slower speeds. This is called coast up and coast down. The issue is that these tests can be conflicting with the vehicles’ need to cycle through “drive cycles” before it is ready to come into compliance and offer accurate data information. Upon cold start, most vehicle controls are not yet fully functional since they are now operated by the vehicles computer.

Furthermore, vehicle manufacturers are mandated on many areas of technical competency of what they can and can’t do to solve some of these obstacles. For instance, there are some measures that are defined by mandate and have been a mainstay, such as the catalytic converter, and EGR. Manufacturers have to find a fix using outside the box thinking, yet must stay confined to regulation and mandates.

When you combine all of these factors, you can see why the issue of so many vehicle manufacturers having skewed emissions and/or fuel economy testing results has run away in the industry. This is by no means meant to be a free pass to the auto industry; they have a responsibility to deliver to consumers a product that is aimed at providing the best measures and quality, including emissions and fuel economy; however, they are not the only ones at fault. So what are the fixes you ask? Well that is content better saved for another article.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Samuel K. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.