“Lorries are vital for the transport of almost everything in Europe,” says Raluca Marian of the International Road Transport Union (IRU) in Brussels. Three-quarters of all goods in the EU travel by lorry. If half the bloc’s 6.2m heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) cannot function, supermarket shelves will be empty within days and essential services reliant on ambulances and fire engines will break down. That could happen if stocks of AdBlue, a mix of urea and deionised water that neutralises nitric-oxide emissions from diesel engines, are depleted. As many as 4m European lorries are programmed to stop after a few kilometres without AdBlue.
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In August SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz, a chemicals company in eastern Germany that makes about 40% of the country’s supply of AdBlue, stopped production because of…