BERLIN (Reuters) - German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday he had stopped government plans to raise compulsory bioethanol blending levels in fossil gasoline. Politicians and industry groups had criticized the plans to raise the level to 10 percent for some gasoline grades from five percent, fearing the increase would damage older cars.
By Kerstin Gehmlich
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday he had stopped government plans to raise compulsory bioethanol blending levels in fossil gasoline.
Politicians and industry groups had criticized the plans to raise the level to 10 percent for some gasoline grades from five percent, fearing the increase would damage older cars.
Gabriel said more than 3 million cars were not ready for the new fuel and could be forced to switch to more expensive unblended gasoline grades because of possible damage.!ADVERTISEMENT!
"Our environmental policy does not want to be responsible for driving millions of car drivers ... to expensive Super Plus petrol pumps," Gabriel told ARD television.
The German biofuels industry association VDB welcomed the decision. It had argued that the bioethanol used for blending in Germany was imported largely from third world countries where deforestation may have taken place to expand farmland.
"The decision is also in the interests of climate protection targets, as the required three million tons of ethanol per year (needed for blending) is not available from European production," the association said.
"With imports there is no guarantee that it is produced using sustainable production methods."
Much of Germany's bioethanol production capacity is idle as producers cannot compete with cheap imports, especially from Brazil.
Germany had viewed biofuels blending as a way of achieving reductions in greenhouse gases without imposing restrictions suggested by the European Union which could hit its high performance car industry.
Mixing bioethanol with fossil gasoline can reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, one of several so-called greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate change.
Gabriel said the automobile industry's final forecasts for the number of cars which would be damaged from the increased blending were far higher than preliminary estimates.
He said the decision was not the end of Germany's biofuels blending. The five percent maximum blending level for bioethanol in gasoline would be retained along with biodiesel blending.
The VDB urged the government to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets by using biodiesel, which does not have the same technical problems as bioethanol. All diesel vehicles could operate safely with a blended content of seven percent biodiesel in fossil diesel, it said.
Germany's biodiesel industry is working at 10-20 percent of its five million ton annual capacity after the government imposed taxes on it, cutting sales at petrol stations this year.
It said Germany's current 4.4 percent compulsory biodiesel and seven percent maximum permitted blending level could be increased to as much as 30 percent.
"Make the required increase in compulsory blending levels for biodiesel as long as no economic and environmental solution has been found for bioethanol," it said.
(additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)