Limit will help reduce Germany’s dependence on oil imports, regional environment ministers say
Germany should introduce a speed limit on motorways, the country’s regional environment ministers decided in a seemingly unanimous vote at a conference on Friday. This decision is justified by the need to save energy and reduce Germany’s dependence on oil and gas imports in the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the ministers explained.
The speed limit would be “an inexpensive, quickly implementable and immediately effective measure” to reduce Germany’s fuel consumption and the need to import oil from abroad, according to the joint statement adopted by the ministers. The move would also help reduce the effects of greenhouse gases, air and noise pollution, he added.
“In my opinion, unlimited races are no longer in vogue”, said Lower Saxony’s Environment Minister Olaf Lies, who chaired the conference. “We must also promote climate protection through a speed limit”, he added.
Thuringia’s Environment Minister Anja Siegesmund (Greens) welcomed the idea as a “Quick and effective measure to save several million liters of fuel and tons of CO2 per year.”
Ministers from the German states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia had been reluctant to back the measure, according to German media. Both had said they considered the move to have only one “limit” effect, and they intended to oppose it “for reasons of proportionality.”
However, the joint resolution, which also contained other proposals on environmental policy, was adopted unanimously, according to Lies. The speed limit has so far been proposed for a “limited time” this would continue as long as the conflict in Ukraine continued.
The joint statement did not set any fixed speed limit, although Lies said he would favor a maximum of 130 km/h. The conference of ministers does not have the power to introduce the measure, which can only be applied by the federal government. The government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz did not include it in its political program due to resistance from the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP), a member of the government coalition led by the Social Democrats. Berlin has so far not commented on the ministerial proposal.
Germany is one of the few countries that does not have a speed limit on motorways. In Russia, it is capped at 110 km/h; in Spain, Portugal and Belgium, the maximum speed on the motorway is 120 km/h. In the United States, speed limits vary between 105 km/h and 140 km/h depending on the state.
According to a recent poll carried out by the German Institute Forsa on behalf of the news media RTL and n-tv, 57% of German drivers are in favor of the introduction of a speed limit on the motorway. The measure is contested by 39%. The survey also showed that 85% of speed limit supporters believe it is necessary for road safety reasons. According to the poll, just over half of those who support the limit cited the conflict in Ukraine as a major reason.
The news comes as Berlin strives to reduce its oil and gas imports from Russia, in line with EU efforts to wean itself off Russian energy supplies. Prior to the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, 35% of Germany’s oil imports came from Russia. Since the conflict broke out, Germany has reduced its share of oil imports from Russia to 12% from 35%.
In early May, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck warned that the eastern part of Germany could face fuel shortages if the EU follows through on its plans to impose an oil embargo Russian.
The eastern part of Germany is supplied by the Schwedt refinery, which operates entirely on Russian imports. It is one of the largest crude oil processing facilities in Germany and supplies 90% of the gasoline, diesel and heating oil used in Berlin and the Land of Brandenburg.
On Friday, several media outlets reported that a sixth round of anti-Russian sanctions still under discussion by EU member states is unlikely to include an oil embargo due to resistance from Hungary.
Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk Donbass. The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions a special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.