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POLITICO: ‘Road rage’ – EU’s plan to ban gas cars may be key to ‘stunning results from European’ – ‘People don’t like you messing with their cars’

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/power-switch/2024/06/11/did-gasoline-win-the-european-election-00162741

Did gasoline win the European election?

By ARIANNA SKIBELL

The stunning results from the European election hammered home one reality for leaders on both sides of the Atlantic: People don’t like you messing with their cars.

The EU’s plan to ban the sale of internal-combustion-engine vehicles by 2035 emerged as a possible casualty of the conservative victories at the polls — a potentially major setback for the bloc’s efforts to reduce climate pollution.

Manfred Weber, whose center-right European People’s Party won the most seats in the European Parliament, wasted no time in calling for a reversal of the ban. Weber already has a friend in France, where far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen told French media that consumers should be able to buy any car they want.

This comes on the heels of setbacks large and small for efforts to lessen carbon emissions and other car-related ills in the United States — including last week’s equally stunning reversal of a planned $15 toll in Manhattan and the relaxation of the Biden administration’s new fuel-efficiency requirements for gasoline-powered vehicles.

And further rollbacks could lie in wait if American voters elect former President Donald Trump, who has joined European conservatives in a backlash against efforts to transition toward electric cars and trucks.

What’s behind the road rage?

The fate of Europe’s ban on gas cars could come down to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s efforts to secure a second five-year term: Von der Leyen, who introduced the law, may need the backing of the EU’s climate-minded Greens, who still hold potential leverage despite taking a shellacking at the polls.

Not all automakers are pleased by the prospect of reversing the ban. Volvo’s director of EU affairs, Céline Domecq, told POLITICO’s Jordyn Dahl that the policy change would be “terrible news.”

The situation in the U.S. is similarly murky. The Biden administration has never pushed for a flat-out ban on gasoline-fueled cars, though it has used a mixture of tax breaks and pollution limits to encourage a shift away from them. And lately, it has made some concessions to automakers.

In March, it issued strict pollution limits for light-duty vehicles while offering assurances that the rules leave room for plug-in hybrids and other types of cars that run on gasoline. Last week, the administration relaxed a proposal that requires traditional SUVs and pickup trucks to get more miles from each gallon of fuel.

And in New York, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s last-minute decision to halt the congestion pricing plan threatens to hurt similar efforts across the country. (But it pleased auto dealers, who were throwing her a fundraiser today.)

The biggest wild card in the car wars may, of course, be Trump.

He has pledged to roll back President Joe Biden’s landmark climate law and other green policies if he takes back the White House, and he remains steadfast in his support of fossil fuels. But he’s started to say he’s a “big fan” of EVs — a likely nod to his new alliance with Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

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