European carmakers survive politicians' backlash - for now

Thu Feb 4, 2016 2:53pm EST
 
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By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Intense lobbying by Europe's car manufacturers helped to save a compromise that will let them exceed EU pollution targets for now, but the narrowness of their victory in the European parliament shows that politicians are running out of patience.

Green and Liberal lawmakers said the compromise, which would allow diesel cars to exceed permitted levels of deadly pollutants by 50 percent, had prioritized saving jobs above saving lives.

They came close to securing a rare veto in the European parliament of a policy that had the backing of the EU's member state governments and, more grudgingly, the executive European Commission.

In the end, the veto failed by 323 votes against to 317 for, plus 61 abstentions. Most center-left and center-left lawmakers finally accepted the argument of car makers that the deal was needed to give the industry time to meet its targets.

But the close vote was a sign of how tough a fight the automobile manufacturers have on their hands to save the diesel industry, after Volkswagen was caught manipulating its emissions test results last year.

"FEAR STATEMENT"

Europe is the only region in the world where most new cars are diesels, a technology that uses less fuel and produces less climate change-causing carbon than gasoline, but produces larger quantities of nitrogen oxides that are hazardous to health.   Continued...

 
Claude Turmes, Luxembourg deputy at the European Parliament group "European Greens", takes part in a plenary session at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, France January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler