Calls to impose speed limits on the famous autobahn have been heard before. But the pressure was stepped up a notch when EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called for the Germans to give up their wide-open speed policy. As expected, the German auto industry and some officials resented the demand, saying they're taking care of emissions reductions and fighting global warming on their own.

Dimas says the unlimited speed zones are a waste of energy and burden the climate. He notes that speed limits are only controversial in Germany.

Most European countries have either a 75 mph or 80 mph limit, others are more strict at 70 mph. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is taking active steps to reduce greenhouse gases by other means, such as energy-saving light bulbs, but does not want to get into a fight with homeland automakers.

The issue is likely to come down to numbers. One study says that limiting speed to 62 mph reduces CO2 emissions by less than 1 percent. But there may be grassroots movement to set limits. One survey says 60 percent would favor autobahn speed limits.

[Source: Geir Moulson / Associated Press via Boston Globe]

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