Merkel Opens New Front in Fight Against Diesel Vehicle Bans

By Iain Rogers and Tony Czuczka

Photographer: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images
Photographer: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

 The proposal would include Frankfurt, the biggest city in the Hesse region, where polls suggest her Christian Democratic Union party is headed for losses in a state election on Sunday. Later Monday, Merkel begins her final campaign tour in the state, where prospective diesel-driving bans have become a critical issue.
“We believe as a rule that driving bans are disproportionate when the limits are exceeded by a slight amount,” Merkel told reporters late Sunday in Berlin. “We want to change the federal emissions law to say that driving bans in such cases would be disproportionate and generally wouldn’t be imposed.”
 In a blow to Merkel’s efforts to avoid driving restrictions, Germany’s top administrative judges raised the prospect of banning diesel vehicles from city centers in a landmark ruling in February, affecting millions of car owners.
Earlier this month, a court in Berlin ordered the city administration to draw up a plan to ban some older diesel models from portions of 11 streets. The ruling was won by environmental group DUH, which previously obtained court bans for Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Munich.

Cheating Scandal

Merkel has sought to defuse the crisis with two national summits aimed at lowering urban air pollution to head off diesel driving bans in the aftermath of Volkswagen AG’s cheating scandal. But efforts to force the country’s carmakers to upgrade emissions hardware have fallen flat, and the ongoing debate has tarnished the technology’s reputation.

 Consumers turning away from diesel undermines a key plank in the strategies of German carmakers to meet tightening European Union emissions standards from 2021. Diesel is profitable and more fuel efficient than corresponding gasoline engines, and the decline in the technology has prompted increased investment in electric vehicles.

Germany’s Greens, who are set for another strong performance in Hesse after increasing their support in this month’s Bavarian election, accused Merkel of shielding automakers.

“It’s a disgrace that the government always protects the car industry,” Katrin Goering-Eckardt, co-head of the Greens’ parliamentary caucus, said in an interview with n-tv on Monday.


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