Rome wants exceptions for biofuels

After a long struggle, the EU-wide end of the internal combustion engine seemed sealed - but now there is new resistance from Italy.

The government in Rome wants to untie the package again. How much pressure is the economy putting on?

Every morning the pulse of the Italians is measured politically. Then the first radio program of the RAI in the program “Radio anch’io” (in English: “Radio, me too”) opens its lines so that the listeners can express their opinion on the topic of the day. Emotions are guaranteed. Rarely, however, has there been so much indignation on the radio as after the decision by the European Union to end cars with combustion engines, despite the compromises that were eventually worked in – keyword: e-fuels.

A developing country when it comes to e-mobility

“Well, listen here,” says a man who introduces himself as “Maurizio from the province of Ancona.” Everyone would talk “about these electric cars”, but “I drive a Panda now, an electric car would cost me three times as much to buy”. Davide from Milan, on the other hand, complains that “Europe could think of banning petrol cars if China, India, the USA pollute as much as they want”. And a woman grumbles about the few charging stations in the country that have made electromobility impossible in Italy so far.

In Italy, the Brussels decision for new cars from 2035 hits a nation that is still a developing country when it comes to e-mobility. With a share of electric cars of just 0.3 percent, Italy is currently less than half the European average. The network of charging stations looks similarly bad.

Rome opt for “overtime”

In view of the current outcry, the government in Rome hastily promised its compatriots that it would improve the decision it had just made. Direction of attack according to Environment Minister Gilberto Pichetto Fratin: After the Germans received a concession on e-fuels, Italy also wants an exception for biofuels.

According to Pichetto Fratin’s interpretation, the European Commission and the Council have already opened up “in terms of technological neutrality”. Italy would now like to “deepen this out over the next few months” especially when it comes to biofuels. To put it more clearly: Italy’s government wants “overtime” in the debate about phasing out combustion engines in order to get the green light for biofuel as well.

Environmentalists don’t understand

Environmentalists across the country shake their heads at this. Federico Spadini from Greenpeace Italy criticizes: “The governments, and especially ours in Italy, are trying everything to play for time and create loopholes and thus slow down a real change in the automotive industry.”

In this regard, too, the Italian environmental activist Spadini opposes the pressure of the government in Rome to make another exception to the planned combustion engine shutdown. Biofuels, says Spadini, release particulate matter that is harmful to health. In addition, there are “very few biofuels that are really sustainable”. They are usually produced by growing crops, which affects the soil and climate. Above all, says Spadini, they would “compete with food production and thus deprive people of opportunities to feed themselves.”

Are ENI, Fiat & Co. putting pressure on?

Spadini sees one reason why Italy’s government now wants an exception for biofuels in the ban on combustion engines in the state-owned company ENI. Italy’s largest energy company has invested heavily in the development of biofuels in recent years. And Italy is not only the location of Fiat, but also home to important suppliers for the combustion engine car industry worldwide.

But environmentalist Spadini says that instead of hoping for new loopholes, Italy should finally do more to support the switch to e-mobility. According to the Greenpeace activist, the fact that there is such a low proportion of e-cars in the country “is also due to the fact that Italy is one of the few countries to promote all kinds of cars, including those with high emissions”. But politicians, says Spadini, must set the direction when switching to electric cars so that new mobility models can gain a foothold.

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