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Heat engines: towards the end of the European psychodrama


If all goes as planned, the European energy ministers, who are to meet in Brussels on Tuesday March 28, should finally put an end to the heat engine in 2035. While leaving the door open to one exception. The Commission and Germany indeed announced, on Saturday 25 March, that they had reached an agreement which makes it possible to unblock this emblematic text of the European green pact, but provides for subsequent adjustments, in another legislative act, for vehicles running on fuels of synthesis.

Read also: Automobile: under pressure from Berlin, the European Union relaxes the ban on combustion engines

Initially, the Twenty-Seven were to ratify, on March 7, the ban on car manufacturers from producing cars emitting CO2 after 2035. Everything had been stalled, and the vote was to be a simple formality, as had been that of the European Parliament, in mid-February. After long negotiations between Member States and MEPs, an agreement was reached between the Community institutions in November 2022. Italy and Poland, in particular, had made their reservations known, but this did not jeopardize the adoption of the text, provided for by qualified majority.

Torn between the various members of its coalition (Greens, SPD and Liberals of the FDP), the German government had finally validated it, after obtaining the addition of a “recital” asking the Commission to take technological developments into account when of a future review of the text. Berlin wants electric vehicles not to be the only response to this new legislation and for the automotive industry to be able to explore other avenues, including that of a combustion engine running on synthetic fuels, i.e. say produced from CO2 from industrial activities.

Insufficient guarantees

In this context, Berlin amazed its partners, at the beginning of March, when its transport minister, Volker Wissing (FDP), announced that he was joining the camp of the protesters, arguing that the German “considering” did not offer him enough guarantees. It must be said that, a few days earlier, in an interview with the newspaper PictureFrans Timmermans had unfortunate words. “We should not force our automotive industry to develop different technologies at the same time. Then everything will be more expensive”he said there on February 17.

The Vice-President of the Commission, in charge of the Green Deal, a legislative package designed to lead the Twenty-Seven to carbon neutrality by 2050, continued: “We have to say where to go. The advantage of Europe is to provide long-term legislation. The US and China don’t make e-fuels either – they’re not stupid. »

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