Germany Rebels Against EU Ban On Petrol Cars

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The conflict is not only affecting the Greens’ popularity — is also seems to be threatening a wider crisis for the coalition | Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images


By Paul Homewood

When green policies see the cold light of day!

BERLIN — Germans want to save the climate. They’re just reluctant to take the potentially painful steps this would require.

A growing backlash over climate-friendly policies is now hitting the German Greens, putting wobbles into the country’s three-party ruling coalition.

Not only has Germany been causing a ruckus at the EU level in recent weeks by mounting a last-minute blockade to a proposed ban on combustion engines, but the country is also facing a domestic political fight over phasing out gas and oil heating systems, as well as pushing forward the coal exit.

ll those disputes are linked to fundamental disagreements between the Greens and their two coalition partners, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), over how the EU’s climate-protection targets should be implemented and what consequences and costs this will have for industry and citizens.

The conflict is not only affecting the Greens’ popularity — is also seems to be threatening a wider crisis for the coalition. And that crisis seems to be escalating.

EU partners are looking with growing unease at the ruptures emerging in the German ruling coalition.

They’re particularly worried about Berlin’s blockade of an EU ban on sales of polluting cars and vehicles from 2035, which the German government previously agreed to, and was specifically promoted by the Greens. However, at the very last stage of the legislative approval process, the FDP of Porsche-driving Finance Minister Christian Lindner threw a spanner at the works, demanding that the European Commission create a loophole for cars operating with synthetic fuels, or e-fuels.

The FDP sees such e-fuels as a chance to save Germany’s industrial crown jewel: the piston-driven internal combustion engine. Without e-fuels, the EU law would force the car-making industry to shift entirely to electronic vehicles.

The FDP sees itself emboldened by a growing public backlash against the green goals for cars, with 67 percent of Germans recently saying they’re against banning the traditional combustion-engine car as of 2035. Germans are concerned about the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on its automotive industry.

For the Greens, however, which had long cheered the EU car legislation, the affair is hugely embarrassing — not to mention a threat to Germany’s reputation at EU level. However, per coalition politics, they are hamstrung, as Scholz has sided with the FDP on the issue.

Green policies are always popular, at least until people find out they have got to pay for them.

The row over the ban on proper cars by 2035 has been brewing for a few weeks now, and Germany has been joined by Italy and five other countries in blocking the EU’s proposed ban. Instead they want the EU to allow cars operating with synthetic e-fuels. But what is e-fuel?

In simple terms, it is hydrogen combined with carbon dioxide. As the latter is captured from the air, its release back into the air after combustion is carbon neutral. The hydrogen of course also has to be carbon neutral, made by electrolysis from renewable electricity.

Sounds good? Well this video explains why it is not really a solution at all:

In short, e-fuel is horribly energy inefficient, with e-fuel containing as little as 7% of the energy used to produce it. As a consequence it is also cripplingly expensive, maybe around $35/gallon.

As the video notes, if you have a Lamborghini, you don’t worry about how much it costs to fill up. But for ordinary passenger cars, it is a non-starter. And you would need so much wind power to produce the hydrogen that it could never work at scale.

So why is Germany so keen to promote it?

I suspect that the real reason is that by keeping combustion engine technology going, they will also be able to keep petrol/diesel going for at least a few more years too.

After all, will Germany’s politicians be any keener to ban ICEs in 2035 than they are now?

By then, they are likely to simply kick the can down the road again. That is if the whole absurdity of Net Zero has not already been consigned to the rubbish bin.