Climate warning

Patrik Lobergh

10 w

Christian Lindner

Climate warning

German energy expert - "The ignorance of some politicians regarding E-fuels is frightening"

No “climate blah blah”, but openness to technology: the German FDP party (liberals) relies on synthetic fuels for cars when it comes to climate protection – e-fuels for short. But these are controversial. German Energy expert Volker Quaschning is also critical of the production of the artificial fuel, as he explains to Utopia.
According to Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP), Germany must take the path to climate neutrality with a technology-open and innovation-friendly policy. "We can only advance our country with concrete proposals and not with climate blah-blah," he said on Saturday in Mainz at the FDP party conference.
Specifically, Wissing is interested in synthetic fuels for cars. According to the Federal Minister, these would become more important as rail and road traffic would continue to increase. Accordingly, Germany cannot secure its climate goals without synthetic fuels, also known as e-fuels. "It's about having climate-neutral and affordable vehicles," emphasizes the FDP politician.
Are e-fuels climate-friendly?
Over the past few weeks, the Transport Minister has made it clear how serious Wissing and his party are with their position on the subject of mobility. The EU vote on the planned end for new cars with combustion engines from 2035 had been postponed at Germany's insistence. Wissing is demanding a proposal from the EU Commission on how e-fuels could be used in combustion engines after 2035. Party leader Christian Lindner is also calling for a rethink in the EU.
In fact, e-fuels are controversial. They are usually obtained from water (more precisely, hydrogen by electrolysis) and existing carbon dioxide (CO2) - but only with a high energy consumption. Whether the production of e-fuels is climate-friendly depends on where the electricity for production comes from.
If renewable energies are converted into electricity for e-fuel production, synthetic fuels are considered climate-neutral. Because then, according to the logic, the production of e-fuel, in contrast to petrol or diesel, does not release any new CO2. The CO2 that is added to the hydrogen can come from industrial processes or be filtered from the ambient air using direct air capture. A major challenge, as energy expert Volker Quaschning emphasizes to Utopia: “In order to fill up all German cars with e-fuels, you would need significantly more electricity to produce them than is currently consumed in Germany as a whole. These quantities cannot be produced in a climate-neutral manner in Germany.”
Quaschning: "Stop creating more legacy issues"
Quaschning, who teaches as a professor for the field of regenerative energy systems at the HTW Berlin, refers to Porsche's e-fuel pilot plant. This was opened in windy Chile at the end of 2022 and is intended to produce 130,000 liters of e-fuels per year there in the pilot phase; Capacities of up to 550 million liters are possible, they say. However, according to Quaschning, electricity production in Chile would have to be increased at least eightfold in order to only be able to fill up cars in Germany with e-fuels.
"E-fuels are a way of temporarily operating outdated combustion technology in a climate-neutral manner," says Quaschning. However, due to the resource requirements, the synthetic fuels are “more of a necessary curse than a blessing to be celebrated”. This means that in order to comply with the Paris climate protection agreement, Germany would have to become climate-neutral by 2030. Since not all conventional aircraft, ships and cars can be replaced in this short time, e-fuels represent an interim solution, according to the expert. “Only: e-fuels are scarce and expensive. That's why we should stop creating more contaminated sites as soon as possible that we cannot get climate-neutral without e-fuels. In other words, we should stop registering cars with combustion engines as soon as possible.”
“That alone is likely to be an enormous challenge over the next 10 years”
The planned end in 2035 comes too late for climate protection, says Quaschning. He sees the resistance of the FDP as a "pure show fight" with which the party is trying to win back votes from voters.
“Before we start thinking about increasing the demand for e-fuels, we should first try to produce as much of them as possible. That alone is likely to be an enormous challenge over the next 10 years.”
The climate-friendly effect of e-fuels has also not yet been finally clarified, although politicians such as Wissing, Lindner or Hamburg's CDU (conservative) boss Christoph Ploß are promoting them against the background of openness to technology.
The European think tank Transport and Environment (T&E), for example, has calculated that cars that run on 100 percent synthetic fuels emit significantly more CO2 over their entire service life than purely electric cars. "An electric vehicle would be 53 percent cleaner than a combustion engine with synthetic fuels, which is mainly due to losses in e-fuel production and the inefficient combustion engine," concludes the T&E study.
Experts call for fact-based discussion
Experts like Quaschning therefore call for a fact-based discussion. This does not always seem to succeed, as a performance by the member of the Bundestag Ploß shows. The chairman of the CDU Hamburg recently declared in a plenary debate that Germany is “one of the last countries in the European Union” in which e-fuels cannot yet be refueled. When asked by a Green politician in which countries e-fuels were actually filled up, the otherwise loud Ploß had no ad hoc answer - because e-fuels are not yet available anywhere for filling up.
“The ignorance of some politicians when it comes to e-fuels is frightening. Not all politicians need to be familiar with all issues. But before politicians get involved in the public discussion, you can actually expect them to make themselves competent,” believes Quaschning – also with a view to possible wrong decisions.

Energie-Experte Quaschning: "Ahnungslosigkeit einiger Politiker beim Thema E-Fuels ist erschreckend"

Kein "Klima-Blabla", sondern Technologieoffenheit: Die FDP setzt beim Klimaschutz auf synthetische Kraftstoffe für Autos - kurz E-Fuels. Doch diese sind umstritten. Auch Energie-Experte Volker Quaschning sieht die Herstellung des künstlichen Kraftstoffs kritisch, wie er gegenüber Utopia erklärt.

Do you agree?

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  • George Kariuki

    9 w

    It's encouraging to see a political party taking a technology-focused approach to climate protection, rather than just talking about it. However, the ignorance of some politicians regarding E-fuels is frightening, and it's important that the production of these fuels is done in a responsible and sustainable way. It's up to experts like Volker Quaschning to ensure that this is the case.

    • Назар Топольський

      9 w

      "E-fuels" are a half-measure. The proper way forward is reduction in personal cat usage, replacing them by public transportation. Mass adoption of cars is unsustainable.

    • Videlis Eddie

      9 w

      Really sad to see leadership acting so arrogant and ignorant

      • We Don't Have Time

        10 w

        Dear Patrik Lobergh Thank you for getting your climate warning to level 2! We have reached out to Christian Lindner and asked for a response. I will keep you updated on any progress! /Adam We Don't Have Time

        • Tabitha Kimani

          10 w

          The difference between a politician and a leader. A leader is visionary, this quality lacking in the German leaders.

          • Daniel Waweru

            10 w

            This is so uncouth.i wish it would come from other people but not leaders. this is dissapointing.

            • Joseph Githinji

              10 w

              I think they choose not to know , just ignorance. This is danger considering that leaders are the representatives to the people.

              • Munene Mugambi

                10 w

                Clueless politicians? Where have I heard this before

                • rosebellendiritu

                  10 w

                  @munene_mugambi they have the information,only that they tend to ignore

                  • Patrik Lobergh

                    10 w

                    @munene_mugambi Everywhere in the World...🙄

                  • mercy nduta

                    10 w

                    E-Fuels can be used in existing infrastructure and thus decisively and affordably reduce CO2 emissions in the transport and heating market ,all the way to climate neutrality.

                    • Patrik Lobergh

                      10 w

                      @mercy_nduta_984 It is an extremely energy inefficient fuel and it still produces CO2 behind your motorcycle or car and as it is very expensive and will only be available in limited quantities, it should be reserved for airline traffic and blue light organisations such as e.g. ambulances and fire brigades

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