GHG quota: Criticism of the bonus for electric car drivers

criticism from environmentalists
Earn money with the electric car – Doubts about the climate benefits of the GHG quota

An electric car is charged at a charging station. The GHG quota for e-vehicles is being criticized. (symbol photo)

© ANP | Ramon van Flymen / Picture Alliance

Electric car owners have been able to earn money with the GHG quota since this year. Mineral oil companies pay them several hundred euros – practically as compensation for their own CO2 emissions. But there are doubts about the benefits for the climate.

The promise sounds almost too good to be true: “Earn money with the electric car”. And yet, under the search term “greenhouse gas reduction quota” or “GHG quota” for short, countless advertisements can be found that promise owners of an electric vehicle a bonus of over 300 euros a year. The money should flow quickly and unbureaucratically without having to work for it. All you have to do is own a battery-powered car or a larger electric scooter and be able to present a valid vehicle registration document.

In contrast to the state purchase premiums for e-cars, which are currently being examined by the federal government, the GHG premiums do not come from tax revenue, but from the mineral oil industry. The GHG quota obliges mineral oil companies to reduce their CO2 emissions from year to year. And if they can’t do it on their own, they have to pay.

The starting point for the CO2 calculations are the values ​​from 2010. In the current year, emissions must be seven percent lower, and in 2030 they must be 25 percent lower. In order to meet the quota, companies have so far mainly mixed biofuel into conventional fuel – up to ten percent (E10) for petrol and up to seven percent (B7) for diesel.

However, with mandatory reduction quotas that increase every year, Aral, Shell and Co. are finding it increasingly difficult to avoid paying fines with just biofuel. One way out: The corporations can buy pollution rights from clean actors in order to meet the legal requirements, at least on paper. They pass the costs on: In the end, those who are still driving with an internal combustion engine have to pay.

Trading in CO2 certificates was previously reserved for companies. In Germany, energy suppliers in particular benefited from the compensation payments. With a comparatively high proportion of renewable energies in the German electricity mix, they remain well below the permitted pollution limits and can sell the CO2 saved to the mineral oil companies as an emission certificate.

Up to 350 euros per vehicle

Since the beginning of 2022, private individuals have also been allowed to get involved in this business in Germany. So that the Federal Environment Agency does not have to deal with countless individual applications, intermediaries come into play who bundle the forms for CO2 reduction and then have them checked as a package in order to then offer them on the market. Nevertheless, there is currently a backlog of applications at the authority, so that the owners of the vehicles have to be patient. In addition to the classic electricity suppliers and mobility providers, around 40 start-up companies such as Emobia, or Fairnergy collect the GHG quotas and transfer up to 350 euros a year per vehicle to the owners of an electric car.

Only plug-in hybrids are excluded because they can also be fueled with fossil fuel. But even electrically powered mopeds and e-motorcycles that have a large license plate and drive faster than 45 kilometers per hour can make full use of the GHG quota.

The ADAC welcomes this regulation: “From the consumer’s point of view, it is positive that the additional crediting of electricity promotes competition for cost-efficient greenhouse gas reductions for energy in the transport sector,” explained the automobile club, which is also active as a GHG service provider.

Criticism of GHG quota

The GHG quota for electric cars is seen in a more differentiated way by environmental protection associations. “It is not harmful, but unfortunately it does far too little to promote climate protection,” says Tobias Austrup, a mobility expert at Greenpeace. “Around 300 euros is too measly an incentive to switch to electromobility.” The state purchase premium alone is 20 times as large. “So I would have to drive this electric car for 20 years to get comparable funding. So that doesn’t help that much.”

Greenpeace calls for other instruments for a rapid conversion of mobility. “A new registration tax for cars with high fuel consumption would bring significant progress. Experience from the Netherlands shows this, for example, where 20,000 euros or more are sometimes due when buying or registering a particularly climate-damaging combustion engine for the first time.” That made the car fleet there much more climate-friendly.

The regulation should actually motivate the mineral oil companies to change, says Austrup. “With the GHG quota, however, they don’t have to fundamentally change their business model. Today they should deal with the question of how they want to earn their money if petroleum products can no longer be sold for climate reasons. The GHG quota generates this Not pressure to transform. It’s more of a classic ransom.”

Even supporters of electromobility, who could benefit from certificate trading, use these arguments. Representing the THG skeptics is the popular Youtuber Oliver Krüger, who uses three electric cars in his company. Krüger believes that the GHG premium for an electric car owner has no effect on climate change. “Anyone who buys an e-car does not do it for 300 euros or a little more, which you can collect here at short notice,” says the managing director of the Hamburg company 163 Grad, which offers solutions for the conversion to climate-neutral energy.

Ultimately, the system only serves to let the mineral oil industry appear in a green robe, says Krüger. “The corporations can mathematically reduce their carbon footprint without actually having done anything to stop climate change.” Krüger therefore wants to refrain from submitting his GHG quotas and the associated money.

Greenpreace expert Austrup, on the other hand, advises every electric car driver to take this bonus with them, despite all their concerns. “Otherwise, the quota will revert to the state. And it will then be auctioned off at some point. So the mineral companies will get this quota one way or another.”


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