Germany is a power in Europe. This is particularly evident at EU level in the discussion about the planned phasing out of combustion engines in passenger cars and light commercial vehicles from 2035. If Germany abstains on this important future climate policy issue, this would have such an impact that zero emissions from passenger cars might not be achieved until 2040 would grab.

During the deliberations of the EU environment ministers, the German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke was concerned with the major goal of banning combustion engines from the vast majority of new cars by 2035. However, a slight opening should still be possible – for combustion cars that are operated with climate-neutral e-fuels and that should also be on the road after 2035.

The FDP campaigned vehemently for such a clause. The Liberals see the use of synthetic fuels as a way of keeping combustion engine technology alive in Europe beyond 2035.

Even if it serves to sharpen the profile of the FDP, it would be a bad signal if the EU environment ministers water down the existing Brussels target. In any case, it would first have to be seen how a new Brussels test of the effectiveness of e-fuels will turn out. As things stand at present, the synthetic fuels that are currently being tested in pilot plants are hardly suitable for covering the entire fuel requirements of an automotive nation like Germany.

Another argument against e-fuels is that much more energy is lost in their production than in the manufacture of electric cars. The industry itself has long recognized the signs of the times and is counting on the widespread use of e-cars by 2035.

This target date is by no means overly ambitious. The remaining decade provides enough time for the automotive industry in Germany and other high-revenue nations such as Italy and France to continue the transition to electromobility.

The FDP is now saying that the EU should not detach itself from global technological progress in the development of climate-friendly combustion engines. But exactly the other way around, it becomes a shoe: The EU should also become a pioneer in climate policy when it comes to promoting electric cars.

At the moment, the Greens are jumping over their own shadow when it comes to letting coal-fired power plants run longer in times of the Ukraine war in view of the curtailed Russian gas supplies. In the current situation of upheaval, it makes more sense than ever if more CO2 can be saved elsewhere – especially in the transport sector. At least for the FDP, old-style lobbying policies should be a thing of the past.

It is all the more astonishing that Chancellor Olaf Scholz threw himself into the breach for the sake of the coalition peace for the FDP. A general end for all combustion engines from 2035 would also have sent a clearer signal to the manufacturers than the concession made to individual industrial segments, which became apparent on Tuesday in Luxembourg.