Germany, Italy Signal They Could Block EU Combustion-Engine Ban
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Germany, Italy Signal They Could Block EU Combustion-Engine Ban

Opposition to a major plank of the bloc’s climate plans comes as the move to EVs threatens jobs in Europe

By KIM MACKRAEL
Thu, Mar 2, 2023 9:15amGrey Clock 3 min

A group of large European Union countries is threatening to block a plan by Brussels to effectively ban the internal combustion engine, endangering the bloc’s ambitious agenda to combat climate change.

Germany and Italy said this week they could block the plan’s formal approval at crucial meetings this week and next. Berlin said it would oppose the plan unless Brussels agrees to allow so-called synthetic fuels that can burn like gasoline and diesel but spew fewer climate-damaging emissions alongside fully electric vehicles.

Under the leadership of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, Europe has adopted an ambitious plan to fight climate-change-causing greenhouse-gas emissions. The plan relies heavily on the mass adoption of electric vehicles and effectively bans new combustion-engine vehicles from 2035.

Parts of the auto industry, which employs 3.4 million people in the EU—nearly 12% of all manufacturing jobs—have pushed back, arguing that including so-called e-fuels into the plan would allow emission targets to be hit while stretching the costly move away from combustion engines over decades.

Some governments have expressed sympathy with the demand as the move to electric vehicles, which are less complex to produce than their combustion rivals, threatens large numbers of jobs in the region.

Under a compromise reached last October, lawmakers agreed that the European Commission could put forward additional rules allowing new vehicles with engines that use carbon-neutral fuels to continue to be sold, but it has yet to do so.

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing on Tuesday said Berlin now wanted Brussels to present this legislation ahead of the plan’s approval, saying that because it had yet to do so, “the German government cannot approve the compromise.”

Italy’s Environment Ministry said that environmental targets should be pursued in a way that avoids harming jobs and production and that electric vehicles shouldn’t be seen as the only route to zero emissions.

Two other countries have also pushed back on the legislation. Poland has informed other member states it plans to vote against the plan, and Bulgaria has indicated it plans to abstain, four EU diplomats said. Poland’s government has previously said that such a ban would restrict consumer choice and lead to higher costs. By acting together, those countries have enough votes to block the plan’s approval.

A spokesman for the commission said it is up to the commission’s political leadership to determine what legislation to propose and when to do so. “The transition to zero-emissions vehicles is absolutely necessary” to meet the bloc’s climate targets, he said.

The European car sector and countries that have begun investing heavily in e-fuel development have spearheaded the effort against the provision in the commission’s plan stating that vehicles should be emissions-free by 2035—a de facto combustion-engine ban.

Germany, home to the region’s largest car makers, said this week that it would soon approve the use of synthetic fuels in the country, a move that would force Brussels to either follow suit or challenge the German law.

German auto makers, including Volkswagen AG, Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Porsche AG and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, have pushed for the use of synthetic fuels to be allowed.

“I’m in favor of intelligent solutions rather than blanket bans,” VW CEO Oliver Blume was quoted as saying in the weekly Welt am Sonntag newspaper in January, adding: “E-fuels are a sensible addition to electric mobility.”

The shift to electric cars is beginning to affect auto-industry employment, raising concerns among politicians that the transition could be moving too fast.

Stellantis NV, which includes Italian auto maker Fiat, this week announced it would cut 2,000 jobs in Italy. Ford Motor Co. recently said it would shed about 3,800 jobs in Germany and the U.K., or around 11% of its European workforce, because fewer employees were needed as the company shifted to electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Stellantis NV, whose brands include Fiat, Peugeot, Jeep and Chrysler, warned on an earnings call with reporters last month that the industry may be getting ahead of its customers.

“I don’t know if people will adapt to a new lifestyle as fast as the car companies have adapted to a new technology,” he said.



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Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

By DEMETRIA GALLEGOS
Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).

Postmortem

People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.

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