Many crocodile tears have been shed over the past week by those who would like to consider the government’s biofuel strategy a failure. But what actually happened?
A technical requirement for regular petrol to contain ten percent ethanol cannot be implemented as planned. The reason? The automobile industry isn’t able to stick to promises made to the government because it wasn’t informed about an agreement for older foreign cars in Germany. That’s regrettable. But is it a catastrophe? No. Ethanol has up till now played a minor role in Germany. The biofuel market runs on diesel. And a biodiesel mix is available in greater quantities than before.
Moreover, the technical aspects of such mixtures have nothing to do with the level of the biofuels quota, which can be fulfilled either through fuel additives or via the straight sale of biofuels. The choice is largely up to petroleum industry. Of course, the big oil companies don’t like to sell pure biofuels. They don’t have the infrastructure to do so. But they could – and legislation specifically allows this – make use of the services of independent midsized petrol stations. The oil firms only need to make up the price difference between “normal” gasoline and diesel. Until greater quantities of biofuels can be added to the mix this method is certainly reasonable demand to place on the petroleum industry.
Naturally, we are also keeping an eye on the global market for biofuels and the raw materials they require. We are aware of the limits to its growth if our biofuel strategy is to remain both sustainable and oriented on meeting climate change goals. But we also see a lot of room to expand the use of biofuels in both Germany and Europe. And that’s exactly what we aim to do.
Parts of the petroleum and automobile industries, and of course Germany’s car lobby ADAC, have publicly made a fool of both the Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel and the government in the worst possible way – especially since they were the ones directly responsible for the information chaos. But it won’t be much use to them. Germany will continue to pursue a sensible biofuels strategy.
Reinhard Schultz is a member of the Bundestag for the SPD.
Translation by The Local.