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16 Sep 2019, 12:31
Edgar Meza

Infeasible "myths" dominate Germany's transport transition debate - db research

Clean Energy Wire

Germany’s transport transition is largely dependent on the adoption of widely circulated concepts based on new technologies and planned infrastructure developments, Deutsche Bank Research says in a newly published report. The authors take issue with some of these leading ideas, deconstructing what they call the “myths of the transport transition,” while laying out what they describe as a more plausible path towards CO2 reduction in the sector. The paper outlines five major points regularly touted as necessary climate targets: Moving freight from road to rail; embracing e-mobility; adopting shared mobility to relieve vehicle density; replacing fossil fuels with synthetic fuels; and decreasing air travel through "flying shame." The authors argue that these concepts are either not feasible, not sufficiently advanced, or simply wishful thinking. Moving just 10 percent of freight transport from roads to rail would necessitate an expansion of rail capacity by 90 percent, for example – something that is not currently possible in Germany without a massive expansion of infrastructure. The overall carbon footprint of e-cars may not be as impressive as lawmakers and marketers tout. While there are no easy solutions in sight, the analysts point to current opportunities that could make transport more efficient and climate-friendly today, such as using digital technologies to help increase overall traffic flow; investing in the expansion of public transport and inducing more people to give up their own cars; encouraging home office work to reduce commuter flows; or using natural gas engines in freight transport and synthetic fuels for air traffic. A largely climate-neutral transport sector is, however, “illusory with today's technologies and global traffic growth,” the researchers state.

Reducing emissions in the transport sector has so far proven to be particularly difficult for Germany. Emissions by passenger cars and other means of transportation have practically remained unchanged since 1990, with efficiency gains in engine technology largely outweighed by greater traffic volumes and increasing vehicle weight. The country's car industry is seen as one of the most important branches of the economy, giving it huge political clout but also making it a key area for Germany to modernise and stay competitive.

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