Protests against German car industry rev up in Frankfurt (Update)

Many protesters are still angry at the 2015 'Dieselgate' scandal when Volkswagen falsified the data on diesel emissions
Many protesters are still angry at the 2015 'Dieselgate' scandal when Volkswagen falsified the data on diesel emissions

Thousands of protesters, many on bicycles, gathered in the southern German city of Frankfurt Saturday to protest outside the city's motor show, part of a new wave of environmental activism.

Between 15,000 and 25,000 people—according to estimates from the police and the organisers respectively—turned out calling for radical change, in a sign of growing impatience with the motor industry.

Campaigners are pressing Germany's car industry to go green and abandon internal combustion engines. Saturday's rally—and another planned on Sunday—followed up on protests inside the Frankfurt Exhibition Centre earlier in the week.

"The car industry has cheated on diesel and is contributing to the worsening climate crisis," said Gerald Neubauer, a spokesman for the campaign group Campact, co-organisers of Saturday's demonstration Saturday at Frankfurt's biennial International Motor Show (IAA).

Diesel-fuelled cars have remained at low levels of popularity in Germany following Volkswagen's massive "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal of 2015.

"The motor show represents the last century," Christoph Bautz, director of Campact, one of the campaigning group's behind the protest, told AFP.

"We want the future to belong to the bus, the trains and to bicycles—we don't want any more."

Two stretches of motorway were sealed off to allow thousands of the protesters to make their way to the venue on bicycles.

Many of the protesters made their way into Frankfurt on foot or on bicycles
Many of the protesters made their way into Frankfurt on foot or on bicycles

'Climate killers'

The combination of protests and civil disobedience aimed at Germany's car industry shows the sector no longer enjoys the untouchable status it once held as a key driver in Europe's biggest economy.

The 10-day long IAA show, where the latest automobile trends are being showcased until September 22, is crystallising tensions over the car industry in Germany, where climate change is shaking up the public discourse.

There are already calls to ban gas-guzzling SUVs from German city centres after four pedestrians, including a three-year-old boy, were killed this month when one mounted the pavement in Berlin.

"Such tank-like cars do not belong in cities," tweeted Stephan von Dassel, a Greens politician and mayor of Berlin's Mitte district, where the fatal accident happened.

"They are 'climate killers', even without accidents—every driving error becomes a life-threatening danger for innocent (pedestrians)."

When the Frankfurt car show opened to the press on Tuesday, Greenpeace activists inflated a giant black balloon outside, bearing the inscription CO2.

A Greenpeace activist protested at the Frankfort motor show earlier this week by standing on top of a SUV on display with a post
A Greenpeace activist protested at the Frankfort motor show earlier this week by standing on top of a SUV on display with a poster that read 'Climate Killers'

Then on Thursday at the Volkswagen and BMW stands, protesters climbed on SUVs with signs bearing the slogan "Climate Killers" during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"The automotive industry has still not understood the climate crisis," Greenpeace activist Benjamin Stephan told AFP.

"Instead of celebrating fuel-guzzling SUVs, manufacturers must put an end to these urban tanks and shut down combustion engines."

Manufacturers must "get out of petrol and diesel, get out of the combustion engine and reduce the number of cars", added Campact's Neubauer.

The vision for many environmental activists is seeing German cities free of cars.

'Under pressure'

"The IAA is a symbolic place, where politicians meet carmakers to congratulate themselves" on an outdated mode of transport, said the Sand in the Gearbox spokeswoman, using the pseudonym Tina "Velo" - bike in French.

Some of the more radical groups taking part prepared to engage in civil disobedience to highlight their cause
Some of the more radical groups taking part prepared to engage in civil disobedience to highlight their cause

"We have to abandon cars, we want car-free cities."

Sand in the Gearbox is representative of a more radical faction of Germany's environmental movement which is prepared to engage in civil disobedience to attract attention.

Movements such as the Extinction Rebellion network, which use non-violent resistance to protest climate change, are spreading across Europe.

In Germany, the similar group Ende Gelaende succeeded in occupying and temporarily shutting down a large brown coal mine in June, which has galvanised the anti-car movement.

"The automotive industry is under pressure—it no longer has the support of society as it did a few years ago, because it has missed out on developments and has no concepts for the future," added Tina Velo.

Having long been regarded as an essential cog in Europe's biggest economy, Germany's auto industry has reached a crossroads as it struggles to adapt to the trend of electric cars.

On Thursday, Merkel said she would support the sector through "revolutions" in climate protection and digitalisation, but warned firms must develop new technologies and win back lost trust among the public.

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© 2019 AFP

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Sep 14, 2019
"We have to abandon cars, we want car-free cities."

But not the trucks and vans that carry all the goods in and to the cities, or the buses, garbage trucks, street sweeping machines, fire engines, police cars, taxis...

What are they gonna do, build tram tracks from door to door? Start hauiling washing machines on rickshaws? No. They just want to ban -private- car ownership because these are people who either don't have jobs and expect the society to carry them on the safety net, or they're so privileged they don't need jobs, so they don't need to own cars either. After all, when you need to go somewhere, there's always "uber".

We don't need no power plants either. The electricity comes from the wall.

Sep 14, 2019
The irony of city-dwellers complaining about cars is exactly biting the hands that feed you.

The city does not produce any value in and of itself. It's a place where people come to do business, buy and sell with value and goods produced outside of the city where the land is cheaper and resources are more easily available. The only thing the city produces is "services", some of which are value-adding but most are just trivial entertainment or unnecessary bureaucracy done ultimately for the point of making people spend value in order to catch some of the spills. If the city is cut off and isolated from people going in and out, it withers away. All the people move out.

Without individual mobility provided by cars, modern cities wouldn't exist. People who bring in all the value consumed in the cities have to move in and out. A society that bans cars and replaces that mobility by "public transportation" would have to look completely different - it would be a planned economy.

Sep 14, 2019
Of course none of that concerns the petty "environmentalist" who takes the city bus to the city hall to protest against cars, thinking that their urban lifestyle as a magazine writer, accountant, barista, barkeep, "urban folklorist", hairdresser, musician, etc... is what's actually sustaining the city.

They don't realize all that is a second order economy on top of the vast streams of money and materials going through the city, changing hands in trade with people coming in from all over the country to buy stuff, have a meal in a restaurant, drink at the bar, a business conference in a hotel... and they want to cut off this supply by making it difficult for these people to actually move around.

Can't have your cake and eat it as well.

Sep 14, 2019
For example, the city of Frankfurt has a population of 753,056 while the metropolitan area consists of 5.6 million people in the surrounding boroughs and towns.

The population of Frankfurt actually grows to 1.5 million during the day when people commute in for work and leisure, and shrinks back at night when people go home. More than half the people in the city don't actually live there. Especially the middle working class people tend to live outside of the city where housing is cheaper, while somewhat paradoxically the poor can afford to live in the city despite high property prices, because their housing is subsidized. Point being that the people who do the actual work don't live in the city, and vice versa.

Now imagine what would happen if you did ban cars. How do you get all those people in and out every day, to and from their homes spread far and wide over the greater metropolitan area, some with regular schedules, some with random schedules, and some just passing by?

Sep 14, 2019
"The return of the primitive"

Ayn Rand was a prophet.

Sep 14, 2019
"The return of the primitive"

Ayn Rand was a prophet.

Primitivism is good in terms of social evolution. It prevents societies from getting stuck at a local maximum and then dying out because the lifestyle of the society has run its course and is no longer viable.

You have to be able to take a step back in order to take a step forwards, which applies to many things such as the automation and displacement of labor with robots. It is not categorically a bad thing - however, you have to be able to identify cases where going backwards in social evolution is just going to limit your options to evolve further. One of those cases is individual freedom of travel: private transportation allows us to rapidly re-structure to different modes of society, whereas removing things like privately owned cars returns us back 200 years in history where the society had to structure around what was available rather than what was optimal.

Sep 14, 2019
Fortunately, as people do have to find ways to get around the problems introduced by politicians, the attempts to ban cars will just end up with a system where people don't own cars in the nominal sense, but rent some thing like robot cars which will inevitably be just as many, and pose the exact same problems, but they will be sanctioned by the "environmentally conscious" ruling class because otherwise the society wouldn't function.

It's the same trick as the whole diesel-gate: politicians were well aware that everyone cheats their emissions tests, but they were deliberately looking the other way because strict adherence to the rules they made up to please their voters would have meant the absolute destruction of the transportation industry. Now they're having to pretend they're doing something about it, while trying their best to do nothing about it, in order to keep voter confidence AND the economy running at the same time.

Moral of the story: politicians always lie.

Sep 14, 2019
A reminder: the whole dieselgate was caused by voters in the EU demanding politicians to implement environmental regulations, which were pushed down to all the member countries, which made them enact laws and taxes which made fuels and cars so expensive that people HAD to buy diesel cars in order to save on cost simply to make ends meet, to the point that 50% of the car market became diesels - which then created a huge air pollution problem due to the NOx emissions, which gradually got better but not at the pace dictated by the politicians, demanded by their voters, who had no idea of what was physically and practically possible to attain.

If the regulators would relax the CO2/km regulations and fuel taxes, diesel cars would become obsolete immediately, and the pollution issue would solve itself, but this is not possible because the voters are convinced that a) CO2 is the major driver of climate change, b) cars are responsible for a very large share of emissions (they aren't).

Sep 14, 2019
The other issue is that all governments are just too happy to increase taxation, because the more money the state can spend the more power they have over the people who become dependent on the state spending - so if the people demand something to be done that can be done by increasing taxation, that's what's going to happen.

As a corollary, that which can be taxed is never going to go away if the state can help it. Cigarettes for example: the state could easily tax them away or completely outlaw smoking in gradual steps, but because the taxes make them money they're only taxing it enough to hurt but not to stop smoking.

So you can rest in the knowledge that cars will never go away. The state gets such a huge load of money out of taxing the transportation sector that they'll never actually outlaw driving. It's just a matter of paying the protection money to the greatest mafia there is.

Sep 14, 2019
jeez eikka , well done

i was going to say get woke , go broke

Sep 14, 2019
And besides, there's all that wonderful Silesian coal. /s

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