No future with more cars

The automotive industry wants to be understood, is painting itself green and is courting confidence that it can achieve the ecological turnaround without prohibition and regulatory policies. As long as the destruction of the environment is subsidized with billions of euros, may believe that who wants to.

Can anyone help them? Photo: Joachim E. Rottgers

Can someone help them? Photo: joachim E. Rottgers

What ever happened to opulence?? There was a time, notes business journalist wilfried eckl-dorna in manager magazin firmly, the international motor show (IAA) was still about "maximum overwhelming of the guests – when the big names in the industry still "honored their own situation" with lavish buffets, show effects and magnificent dance ensembles. And now? "Instead of expensive "kobe beef, eckl-dorna takes stock and it sounds a little piqued, volkswagen (VW) serves its guests "this time as a highlight vegan burgers in small format: morsels instead of happen evenly."

How emblematic. the stands have also shrunk, the industry is complaining about dwindling profits, and heavyweights like nissan, toyota and fiat want to be on "europe’s leading platform for mobility" (self-description) can’t even come up with a stand. Outside, tens of thousands are demonstrating against the trade show, posters with nasty slogans are being displayed everywhere, such as "stinker out!" or "cars are stupid. The industry wants to be open to discussion, but the young climate activists from "fridays for future" are not and "sand in the gearbox turned down the invitation to discuss the issue at the trade fair. the mayor of frankfurt would have liked to say a few critical words, but was not allowed to, and now publishes sentences on facebook such as: "we need an automotive industry that behaves in accordance with the law. (…) i’ll be honest: frankfurt needs more buses and trains, but not more suvs."

This year, IAA visitors had to struggle through blockades - and then: not even Koberind at VW! Photo: Jens Volle

IAA visitors this year had to struggle through seat blockades – and then: not even kobe beef at VW! Photo: jens volle

The "hunchbacked mountains of sheet metal, in whose purchase "a blatant lack of judgment manifests itself" (johannes vincent knecht in "konkret"), have fallen into disrepute and yet are so important for the margins of an industry that is struggling with an image problem after the mass deception of millions of customers. "The automotive industry has also understood the signs of the times", the head of the stock corporation most deeply involved in the emissions scandal now claims in an argument with the taz newspaper. In it, herbert diess, who has been in charge of VW since april 2018, sets the ambitious goal of "converting around 50 percent of our fleet to electric operation in the next ten years to want to convert.

But ecological ambition is still being undermined by the present. "Volkswagen was the biggest climate polluter among car manufacturers in 2017 and 2018", claims greenpeace in a report that appeared just in time for the trade show, and accuses the manufacturer of CO2 emissions that "exceed the annual greenhouse gas emissions of australia" lie. According to the environmental protection organization, the twelve largest automakers alone, including Daimler and BMW, are responsible for nine percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

There is still no sign of a trend reversal. In germany, as chancellor angela merkel explained somewhat cryptically at the IAA, "we can see that although we have much more efficient technologies in individual cars today, no CO2 reduction in the total volume of traffic has been achieved since 1990." and this illustrates an unresolved, probably even unsolvable conflict for the local key industry.

Seriously: 85 percent of cars would have to be taken off the road

"more car traffic cancels out progress", it says in a publication of the federal environment agency (UBA) from may of this year. Today, the average individual car emits fewer pollutants than its predecessor. But because there are more and more of them on the roads, transport is the only sector in germany where emissions harmful to the climate have not fallen since the 1990s, but have actually risen slightly.

Scientists have found that there are too many cars on the road. Photo: Joachim E. Rottgers

scientists have found out that there are too many cars on the road. Photo: joachim E. Rottgers

For Baden-Wurttemberg, where traffic is responsible for almost a third of the greenhouse gases that are harmful to the climate, a study has come to a remarkable conclusion: electric cars or not – if the state wanted to take its climate targets seriously, it would have to reduce the number of cars on the road by 85 percent by 2050, according to a comprehensive study by the Baden-Wurttemberg Foundation. The UBA arrives at a similar conclusion, but formulates it somewhat more subtly, the "environmental and climate relief in passenger transport" Ultimately, this cannot be achieved through technical improvements to the vehicle alone, but "onlyincombinationwithmeasuressuchasincreasedtransport efficiency or a change in the choice of transport mode". (however, it would probably be political suicide for the Greens to develop the corresponding radical programmatic demands on the basis of these findings.)

Now, at the IAA, the association of the automotive industry would like to see "instead of a climate policy that relies on bans or de facto bans", the "trust of politics and society", that they find the "best technical solutions and the appropriate paths to climate-neutral traffic". But how likely is it that the carmakers, given a free hand, will work to drastically reduce the number of cars in the republic??

"We have suvs, we live off the conventional car business", VW boss diess recently admitted in the taz newspaper. "We need a profit margin of around 4 to 5 percent to be able to invest in the future at all." and if the vehicles don’t sell, "we don’t stand a chance in our system. The industry, on the other hand, is not making big money with electric cars, but in particular with suvs – around 30 million of which were sold worldwide last year, seven percent more than in 2017. Because the climate killers are so popular with customers, the group, which is now trying to project a green image, announced in october 2018: "volkswagen is pressing ahead with the largest SUV offensive in the company’s history. In 2025, around one in two volkswagen passenger cars sold worldwide is expected to be an SUV." currently only about one in five.

Here, the carts of the future show what they can do. Photo: Jens Volle

This is where the cars of the future show what they can do: IAA 2019. Photo: Jens Volle

The automotive industry is a prime example of how a company cannot invest – and may even go under in the long term – if it does not generate profits. That is why, according to the principles of business logic, any environmental protection must be subject to the condition of financial viability in order to survive on the market. As long as climate-damaging products are more lucrative than environmentally friendly ones, it is therefore illusory to assume that a change of course can take place without regulatory measures. At the moment, however, the destruction of the foundations of human life is subsidized to the tune of around 57 billion euros a year in germany alone, according to figures from the federal environment Agency. At least, because the sum mentioned is "only a lower limit".

Why are environmentally harmful subsidies not being ended??

At the IAA, the chancellor pointed out that electromobility is currently still "a blueprint for the future because the cars are only really climate-friendly if the electricity is also generated from renewable energies". And so that overall the incentives "are also set in such a way that the technology development then goes in the right direction", there must be "an element of pricing" for CO2 emissions – "because we also want to steer the behavior of citizens in certain directions". one opportunity to put this plan into practice will be the climate cabinet meeting next friday, the 20th. September. Whether it works?

In a hefty commentary for the "suddeutsche zeitung" newspaper journalist michael baumuller writes that while the federal government is rhetorically up to date, "in practice, its efforts could end in one of the biggest cases of voter fraud the country has ever seen." because the proposals that have become public so far to implement its own climate targets are a "largely useless, absurd mix", about such measures that are just not meant to hurt anyone.

Protest action in front of the IAA. Photo: Jens Volle

robin wood" protest action before the IAA. Photo: jens volle

A much more far-reaching step, which seems to be long overdue but is hardly discussed in public, would be to stop environmentally harmful subsidies – such as the subsidization of air traffic to the tune of around twelve billion euros per year, the diesel privilege or energy tax concessions. With regard to the latter phenomenon, the Kiel institute for economic research criticized in a report from march 2018: "this is a subsidization of precisely those production methods and processes that are decidedly hostile to the environment, or rather, of the environment. Particularly much energy consumed (. ). Basically, these exceptions make a mockery of the entire energy and environmental policy being pursued."

For the UBA, it is also a clandestine subsidy if the ancillary costs of fossil energy production are not charged to those who cause them, but "instead are imposed on the state and society become. For example, when the general public is asked to pay for the costs of destroyed livelihoods, which are not nearly compensated by the revenues of a much too low taxed CO2 emission. Coal and nuclear should therefore no longer be favored over renewable energies, because only then would the latter "have a fair chance in competition and be able to assert themselves in the market.

But is that really conceivable? That the ruling politicians are so irresponsible in the face of an escalating climate crisis that they still subsidize the destruction of the world despite all the Sunday speeches?

Ten million for burning the world – per minute

Here’s a little anecdote from brussels. in 2013, gunther oettinger, then in his function as energy commissioner, wanted to prove that europe subsidizes renewable energies far too much. Because the officials in charge wanted to do their job properly, they wrote in a first draft, for the sake of completeness, that a large part of the subsidies in the energy industry goes to coal and nuclear power. What does an elegant way of dealing with such a finding look like?? Quite simply, the passage was deleted without replacement. The "suddeutsche zeitung" inquired what happened to the numbers. There have never been any, was the information of a spokeswoman "which is a bizarre claim, because the ‘suddeutsche zeitung’ has two corresponding drafts".

Tens of thousands demonstrated in Frankfurt at the start of the IAA - what will it look like on Friday? Photo: Jens Volle

Tens of thousands demonstrated in frankfurt – how will it look on friday? Photo: jens volle

Globally, the madness is much greater. According to a study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is traditionally not suspected of spreading radical left-wing eco-propaganda, the sum of environmentally harmful subsidies worldwide amounted to an unimaginable 5.3 billion dollars in 2015 (no translation error, in English "$5.3 trillion"). Or, to make the dimensions a bit more comprehensible: a good ten million dollars per minute. And while you – dear reader – are now processing this sentence, perhaps frowning and possibly somewhat incredulous, a sum has once again flowed into the burning of the world which, provided you do not owe your wealth to the exploitation of foreign wage labor, should be considerably higher than your income in the next few years.

In view of these dimensions, it seems very questionable whether the public discourse will set the appropriate priorities. It will be interesting to see how much discussion will take place next friday, when the united climate protection movements call for a general strike, on the question of how legitimate it is to leave school – or even work – for a political cause! – to play truant.

All on strike

In guayama, porto rico, the "fridays for future" (fff) demonstrate on 20. september from 12 o’clock in front of the city hall, in kingston in jamaica also, in inuvik canada they march through the city, also in ulaanbaatar in mongolia young people take to the streets for the climate, in moscow, in koszalin in poland, in nantes, french, zagreb, prishtina, lome in togo, khartoum in sudan, yokohama in japan – next friday, fffs around the world are calling for a global refusal to work and the launch of the "global climate strike: week for future!" on.

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Christina Cherry
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