Controversial association: “Push back diesel”: the background of the environmental pressure campaign

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    There is no genetic engineering in the plant.

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The news service “Table Media” revealed a campaign planned by the German Environment Agency: the DUH offered its services to a gas lobby association. Offer is available for FOCUS online. The club's complaints about diesel also appear in a new light.

The German Environmental Aid became known primarily for its anti-diesel lawsuits, following which several German cities imposed driving bans. As a nonprofit, DUH has the right to sue over this. The association also warns, among other things, car dealers not to present their cars with all the required information on consumption and emissions. The DUH also supervises the energy labels of household appliances. He even did it during the early stages of the coronavirus crisis, when the entire country was panicking about the new virus and probably had other problems besides a climate label stuck upside down on a dishwasher. However, from a purely legal perspective, the DUH stands by its warnings.

Environmental help sought to “push diesel taxis back”

Now, however, there are doubts that the association actually only pursues charitable purposes. As the investigative and media service “Table.Media” revealed, in 2016, in the initial phase of the VW emissions scandal, the DUH offered to pressure a gas industry association to obtain fossil gas in exchange of a payment of 2.1 million euros in fuel. in the transportation sector.

Offer is also available for FOCUS online. It consists of nine A4 pages and is drawn by DUH head Jürgen Resch. One of the objectives of the presented campaign was to put political pressure on cities and state governments. The campaign draft literally says: “We call on all cities (and relevant state governments) with air pollution control plans and environmental zones, especially in relation to legal procedures, to take measures to reduce diesel taxis in the short term and build the largest fleet of environmental taxis possible. .” It was also proposed to the natural gas lobby association that the demand for so-called environmental taxis could be included in the “model trials for the implementation and tightening of environmental zones”.

Ultimately, this was a lobbying campaign explicitly against diesel engines. The DUH would have received two million euros for this, spread over three years. “For the execution of the planned activities, we estimate financial expenses of 750 thousand euros in 2017, 700 thousand euros in 2018 and 650 thousand euros in 2019,” the letter says. And further: “The annual financial support must be transferred to the DUH in two equal parts on February 1 and August 1 of each year.”

The DUH campaign for gas taxis should cost two million euros

The offer for the three-year campaign dates back to December 2, 2016 and was directed to the Natural Gas Mobil association. “Erdgas Mobil is now called Future Gas and is backed by leading companies in the gas industry, including Total and Wintershall, as well as many municipal utilities,” Table.Media reports.

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The campaign should have the title “Clean air through clean engines”. According to information from Table.Media, before the offer was submitted, there were personal negotiations between the main representatives of the DUH and the gas association. “In the end, the association decided not to finance the campaign. “It is surprising that the DUH offers to start a lobbying campaign to launder fossil gas in exchange for money: the organization is recognized by the financial authorities as a non-profit organization and sets high moral standards for authorities and companies,” states the media service. At least the information provided by the DUH in its draft campaign is correct in that natural gas vehicles are a comparatively polluting technology with low CO2 emissions. The latter especially applies to diesel engines.

“Greenwashing of fossil gas”

In response to an online request from FOCUS, the DUH confirmed the letter: “In late 2016, we sent a summary of the 'Clean Air through Clean Engines' project to Natural Gas Info, along with a list of expected costs of these three one year project. Following the discovery of the diesel emissions scandal and the discovery of an extremely high increase in particulate emissions from diesel taxis, the aim of the project was to keep the air clean and thus protect the environment and people in German cities. “said a DUH spokeswoman.

The DUH was invited in 2016 to a “round table on natural gas mobility” at the Federal Ministry of Economics. They were asked if they would carry out “project work on natural gas propellants as alternatives to existing diesel propellants that emit less CO2, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.” “The representative of the Ministry of Economy regretted not having a budget for a project of this type,” states the DUH. In fact, the DUH has received funding for several environmental projects from various ministries in the past.

DUH doesn't see a “campaign,” but called it that explicitly

The final offer made to the lobby association was neither a campaign nor a service, Environmental Aid claims. However, the DUH itself explicitly talks about a campaign in the 9-page text. . The cost breakdown also contains an item “External service providers/expert reports”. The “Press and Public Relations” association refers to other items (for this alone the DUH estimates 240,000 euros for the planned duration of the project), as well as demands, emissions measurements, travel expenses, fees and “others”.

When asked by FOCUS online, the DUH responded that no other environmental and consumer protection associations participated in the draft of the campaign. However, the DUH highlights in the draft text that the “excellent DUH network” can be relied upon, that “the relevant German environmental and transport associations” will support the cause and that they can be “closely integrated into the campaign.” ”.

Close connection with the “Transport and Environment” lobby association

The campaign that has now come to light is not surprising, as it fits exactly into the long-standing strategy of a close-knit network that aims at two key points:

  • Also prohibition of the internal combustion engine
  • Reduction of private transport.

The DUH collaborates in many campaigns with the German Transport Club (VCD) and also has links with the lobby association “Transport & Environment”, which has particular influence at the political level in Brussels: it is the umbrella organization of the DUH and the VCD. T&E lobbies at EU level in favor of electromobility and against the use of alternative fuels, such as e-fuels. According to information from FOCUS online, T&E played a key role in influencing politicians when the EU decided to ban all combustion engine technologies from 2035, including gasoline, diesel and hybrid engines and, incidentally, the gas ones.

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The former Secretary of State is part of an influential network

The DUH and the closely linked German Transport Club (VCD) have always had very special plans for drivers. One of the most important allies at the highest political level was the founding member of the VCD, the former Secretary of State for the Environment and former head of the Federal Environment Agency, Jochen Flasbarth. In a speech given in the summer of 2016 at the foundation of the “Agora Verkehrswende”, launched by the Mercator Foundation and the European Climate Foundation (ECF), Flasbarth outlined the direction in which the lobby network's work should develop. against private transport: “In the climate protection plan we wrote that from 2030 cars with conventional combustion engines will no longer be permitted,” said Flasbarth. With a five-year deviation (the ban on combustion engines will come into effect in 2035), this goal has already been met. This has been achieved at EU level: Flasbarth is currently State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Unknown but influential: “Return of traffic in Ágora”

Like the “Agora Energiewende”, the “Agora Verkehrswende” plays an important role in political advice at the traffic light, but also in its previous governments and, as one might think at first glance, is not made up solely of members of the green coalition NGO (non-governmental organizations), even the automobile industry is in favor.

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On the so-called “Agora Council” (the full list can be found on the Agora website) there is, in addition to State Secretary Flasbarth, Jens Hilgenberg from the German Association for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND). , which were made known in the Graichen case, the director of the Federal Environment Agency, Dirk Messner, William Todts from Transport and Environment, as well as representatives of VW, BMW, Mercedes, Deutsche Bahn, ADAC and other companies and associations. Also listed as “guests” are Stiftung Mercator GmbH and the European Climate Foundation (ECF) (according to the website: September 2023).

The power of networks is constantly growing

For millions of drivers in Germany, all this makes for an interesting idea: all the issues that directly affect them, from the driving ban to the end of combustion engines, the increase in taxes on CO2 emissions, the limits speed and much more, They are no longer decided only by the representatives who elected them . Lobby networks, interest groups (not just those with “green” backgrounds) and the industry itself have been in charge for years. And they are increasingly taking the wheel.