Exhaust PipeEU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has caused quite a stir in Brussels by asking for a Toyota Prius as his next car, rather than a BMW or Mercedes as the Commissioners traditionally use. The Prius is a petrol-electric hybrid and has low CO2 emissions per kilometre. The whole story from the BBC is here. European carmakers are up in arms about this heinous sin – to buy a Japanese car!

But if you look more closely at the issue, what options does Dimas have if he wants to appear to be green? Honda also produces hybrid versions of its Accord and Civic models but the firm is also Japanese, although both Toyota and Honda produce plenty of cars in the UK (see this BBC article about Honda’s plant in Swindon), but as far as I can tell this factory does not manufacture the Civic Saloon Hybrid.

European manufacturers have not to date brought petrol-electric hybrid cars onto the market. The only viable efforts at other fuel sources have been from Saab with their BioPower (i.e. Bioethanol) cars. The problem here is that is most countries other than Sweden it’s almost impossible to find Bioethanol at filling stations. So Dimas could have a Saab but would not be able to fill it up, in part due to the EU’s very unambitious biofuels targets. The report for Belgium shows how limited access to Biofuels is in the Brussels region.

An all of this comes straight after intensive lobbying by German car manufacturers on Angela Merkel to let their cars continue to pump out plenty of CO2 per kilometre instead, watering down Dimas’s stricter targets. And we thought the EU was supposed to be a force for good on environmental policy?

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