Will a Russian oil ban bring the 1970s back to life? – EURACTIV.com

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As residents of the Brussels bubble return from the Easter holidays, talk around the EU capital has turned to fossil fuel sanctions.

Speculation is rife that in a few days there will be an announcement of new sanctions targeting Russian oil, one of the Kremlin’s biggest sources of money.

What exactly will be announced is unclear. There are rumors that Brussels will impose an outright import ban. Others think the penalties will be lighter, consisting of new tariffs and a phase-out date.

This lack of clarity largely stems from the political divide on the issue between member states. When it comes to an outright ban, Germany remains unconvinced (although its view seems to be changing), while Hungary remains firmly opposed to any embargo.

This contrasts with other EU countries that have shown a significant willingness to cut off Russian oil, notably France. An emboldened President Emmanuel Macron, buoyed by his re-election on Sunday, is expected to push EU partners to embrace the concept with renewed vigour.

While it’s hard to say what Brussels will ultimately announce, any oil sanctions will almost certainly trigger further price shocks, which will be felt at the gas pump and on the overall cost of living.

Leaders have an unpleasant choice: stop financing Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine with oil imports and accept the economic blow or abandon EU principles in the name of relative stability.

If a ban is announced, high fuel prices will compound the pain of the past few months and risk fomenting further civil unrest (witness the mass protests against the spiraling cost of living that have engulfed Spain).

To soften the blow, governments can choose to keep gasoline and diesel prices stable by doubling subsidies and price caps.

It’s far from ideal. Not only is this essentially a subsidy for Putin until the ban is fully implemented, but it also prevents demand from falling, thereby keeping prices high in real terms.

It further complicates government plans for carbon taxes and the extension of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS) to road transport. Simultaneously subsidizing oil to drive down prices while taxing oil to drive up prices makes little sense, regardless of the original rationale for both decisions.

Another option is to dust off the 1970s playbook and target demand.

Those of a certain age may remember the oil shortage of the 1970s. In response to the crisis, then US President Jimmy Carter encouraged Americans in a series of speeches to use less energy . Carter himself refused to turn on the air conditioning in the White House and sold the presidential yacht as a token act.

His energetic restraint message was not popular, and Carter was kicked out of the White House after one term.

In 2022, European governments are probably hoping to convince citizens to change their habits by focusing on the positive aspects of a less energy-dependent way of life: lower costs, cleaner air and better health.

Environmentalists have been advocating such policies for years: higher levels of cycling, cheaper and more expansive public transport, a shift to carpooling and lower speed limits.

But the reality is that telling citizens to drive less and use less energy is likely to be as unpopular today as it was 50 years ago.

Whichever path is taken, Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels – especially vis-à-vis an unstable neighbor – must end, both for geopolitical and climatic reasons.

The invasion of Russia has only accelerated the energy balance of Europe.


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The European regulation on batteries will be adopted by the summer

The massive EU Battery Regulation, which covers everything from raw material extraction to collection and recycling targets, is currently being debated by the European Parliament and Council.

Legislation aims to make European batteries the greenest in the world by setting carbon emission limits on production, requiring manufacturers to use recycled content and imposing controls to prevent labor abuse in the battery supply chain.

The outcome of the inter-institutional wrangling will have a major impact on the electric car industry. All batteries produced for vehicles will have to meet the requirements of the legislation.

EURACTIV understands that France, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council until July, wishes to move the dossier forward as quickly as possible.

Several other trilogues are already scheduled, with the aim of reaching a negotiated agreement before the summer break.


Taxis turn to hydrogen to reduce emissions

Much of the debate over the future of private road transport has focused on internal combustion engine cars versus electric vehicles.

But there is another option, which is proving popular among taxi fleet operators: hydrogen fuel cells.

Cities across Europe have seen an increase in the number of hydrogen taxis, partly thanks to favorable legislation.

The Clean Hydrogen Partnership, a joint venture between the EU and industry, aims to deploy 180 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in Paris, London and Copenhagen.

“Hydrogen is the ideal fuel for taxis due to its long range, high usage and short recharge time,” said Bart Biebuyck, CEO of Clean Hydrogen Partnership.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have a similar range to internal combustion engine cars and can be refueled in about five minutes.

The EU supports the Clean Hydrogen Partnership with €1 billion to accelerate the development of clean hydrogen applications.

Read EURACTIV journalist Nelly Moussu’s full report below.


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