Berlin threatens to block EU internal combustion engine ban

Germany’s transport minister has threatened to block a core part of the EU’s green agenda, saying Berlin will not support plans to ban new cars with internal combustion engines from 2035 unless Brussels exempts vehicles that run on synthetic fuels.

Volker Wissing said the production of engines using “climate-friendly” e-fuels, such as e-methane and e-kerosene, “must be allowed for the long term”.

The statement comes days before an EU vote on a plan to force European carmakers to cut carbon emissions from their cars by 55% between 2021 and 2030, and 100%. in 2035.

Wissing called on the European Commission to make a proposal to allow the production of internal combustion engines running on synthetic fuels after 2035 or face a backlash from Berlin.

Voting is set for next Tuesday.

Volker Wissing, German transport minister

Volker Wissing, German transport minister © AP

Without Berlin’s support, the law could hardly be passed. Poland has announced its objection, while Bulgaria has said it will abstain. Italy is also considering a vote against the targets, according to two EU diplomats.

The EU plan, that is provisional agreement by member states last year, will make it difficult to sell new petrol or diesel vehicles from 2035.

That has caused controversy in Germany, where hundreds of thousands of auto jobs could be affected by an effective ban on vehicles with internal combustion engines, which contain more parts — and takes more labor to build — compared to electric vehicles.

However, Frans Timmermans, the EU’s commissioner for the Green Deal, has criticized the environmental benefits of e-fuels, leading to concerns in Berlin that the commission will not license them when considering legislation by 2025. .

The EU’s de facto ban on internal combustion engines has become a major source of contention in the tripartite governing coalition of German Social Democratic chancellor Olaf Scholz. The Greens support an EU-wide ban, but it is opposed by Wissing’s party, the pro-market Liberal Democratic Party (FDP).

Green ministers in the government reacted with disappointment to Wissing’s intervention. A spokesman for the Environment Ministry, run by the Green Party, said Germany approved the phasing out of combustion engines while EU ambassadors discussed the matter in November.

“This consent is coordinated with other ministries. The text that is supposed to be confirmed next week “has not changed”.

FDP leader Christian Lindner, who is also Germany’s finance minister, said last year that banning internal combustion engines in Europe would only cause manufacturers to move elsewhere in the world to fill the void.

Germany initially agreed to phasing out last year on condition that the commission make an assessment of whether cars powered by climate-friendly fuels such as e-fuels could be allowed to be used after 2035. Are not. E-fuel is electrically produced from renewable hydrogen and other gases, and so is generally considered “carbon neutral”.

However, e-fuels are not yet widely available and require large amounts of renewable energy to produce.

Additionally, campaigners say they can be nearly as toxic as burning fossil fuels, and that they emit as much toxic nitrous oxide as gasoline-powered engines.

Greenpeace accused Wissing of putting the German government’s reputation at risk in the EU. Benjamin Stephan, a Greenpeace transport expert, told the DPA news agency that the transport minister “didn’t want to admit what the commission and parliament decided long ago and even the auto industry has accepted. recognized long ago: e-fuel is a waste of electricity.”

On the same day as Wissing’s intervention, the Scholz government said it would change the law to allow the use of e-fuel in cars in Germany.

The FDP described the decision as a “breakthrough” in efforts to protect the climate. “That means all cars with internal combustion engines will be able to run on these fuels in their pure form,” said Christian Dürr, leader of the FDP group in the German parliament.

“In the future, ordinary cars with internal combustion engines will run on carbon neutral fuels,” he said. “So far that has been legally impossible.”


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