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Germany’s Car Push Risks Derailing EU Green Deal, Lawmaker Warns

Germany’s Car Push Risks Derailing EU Green Deal, Lawmaker Warns
A worker drives a forklift to load a rack of 4 cylinder Diesel motor engine blocks onto a fright carriage at the Adam Opel AG automobile component factory in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. German industrial production rose less than analysts expected in May, underscoring the challenge faced by Europe's economy as it emerges from months-long coronavirus lockdowns. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz risks derailing the European Union’s green deal with his government’s push to allow combustion cars running on e-fuels to continue to be sold after 2035, a key architect of the climate package warned.

It’s “not acceptable” for Germany to renege on an accord reached in October committing member states to phase out emissions from the auto sector, according to Pascal Canfin, a French liberal who chairs the EU Parliament’s environment committee. Lawmakers would reject any attempt to reopen that deal in the wake of German pressure to include so-called e-fuels, he said.

“We can’t accept this text to be taken hostage by part of the German government,” Canfin told reporters. “We hope that the chancellor will not remain in history as the one who would have killed the green deal. It is as simple as that.”

The intervention highlights the bitterness surrounding Berlin’s last-minute intervention to block the proposed ban on new combustion-engine vehicles. Scholz’s government is pushing the European Commission to come forward with a proposal on how new cars running solely on e-fuels — made using renewable electricity and carbon captured from the atmosphere — can be sold after the 2035 cutoff date.

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing has been the main driving force behind the move, which critics have said was at least partly prompted by the poor performance of his FDP party in recent regional elections.

Germany and EU Are Still Locked in Talks to Salvage Key Car Ban

Opponents of e-fuels say they’re a waste of renewable energy and should be saved for harder-to-decarbonize uses — and that they also emit carbon dioxide when used. Proponents say they’re essentially renewable electricity that has been converted into a combustible, liquid fuel.

Scholz met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Meseberg north of Berlin on Sunday, where they pledged to continue discussions and Scholz expressed optimism a solution will be found. A vote that was due to take place Tuesday and intended to rubber-stamp the regulation has now been delayed indefinitely.

Canfin said that any proposal would have to be made outside of the rules to phase out new combustion engine vehicles, or be subject to a review in 2026. He said he told EU climate chief Frans Timmermans last week that parliament wouldn’t tolerate a reopening of the deal.

However, the commission could opt to provide more details on the timeline for implementing provisions on e-fuels already included in the regulation, he added. If it decides to table a legislative proposal, lawmakers in the parliament could move quickly, he said.

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