Do you know what OMV, RWE, Axpo and Gunvor have in common? These are energy companies that were able to look forward to hefty profits in the first half of 2022. The Austrian OMV has made a profit of around 5.6 billion euros before taxes since January, Axpo at least half a billion francs.
RWE’s share price rose by 30 percent in the same period. Gunvor, which belonged to Gennady Timchenko, a Putin confidante, until the Russian sanctions for the annexation of Crimea, was pleased to report half-year profits of around two billion euros. OMV, RWE, Axpo and Gunvor are doing well – and now they can expect additional money from German consumers from the gas levy.
How can that be? The outrage is great. The Left senses an “expropriation of the population”, the Green Youth threatens to protest against their own government. They wanted to support energy companies that had been hit with the gas surcharge. The basic idea is correct, because if the companies were to sell their gas businesses, the lights and heating would quickly go out in Germany.
But apparently the regulation, which will apply from October 1st, was hastily put together. First the corrections in terms of VAT, now the fact is becoming public that companies that do not need the levy at all could also benefit.
But there is a lack of insight in the government. “A company must also be able to make a profit,” a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs defended the insolvency-independent levy.
For private gas consumers, many of whom have already reduced their shower time and are worried about the winter, this might sound like mockery. Especially since the federal government does not even create transparency about what happens to the citizens’ money. Which group receives how much from the allocation is not disclosed – a trade secret.
In the end, among the twelve companies that are now eligible to apply, there are two companies that the federal government should help: SEFE, the former Gazprom Germania, and the ailing energy giant Uniper. Both have done large-scale deals with Russia in the past and are now posting heavy losses. Schadenfreude doesn’t get us any further. If the two companies stopped supplying gas, rationing would probably be inevitable.
This is another reason why the federal government is involved. SEFE has been under trusteeship of the Federal Network Agency since the beginning of April, and the government recently invested 30 percent in Uniper with billions in taxes.
But to save two companies from collapsing, there would have been more sensible options than a levy for the entire industry. So the instrument is unfair for several reasons. Only the gas consumers, who are already suffering the most from the prices, should bear the surcharge.
Around 15 percent of German electricity was recently generated with gas. It is not only in the interests of private gas consumers if cold chains are maintained, hospitals can be operated and parts of public services do not collapse.
For society, the regulation contains explosives. The mood is already heated up this summer, and an even hotter autumn is imminent. The high inflation will pick up again after the end of the fuel discount and the nine-euro ticket, and the gas bills are only slowly arriving. The gas allocation is only the cherry on the cake of the loads.
Gas prices have increased by 700 percent in the past year, but the only debate is the 2.4 cent levy per kilowatt hour.
In terms of communication, it was a debacle from the biggest communicator in the traffic light coalition, Economics Minister Robert Habeck. He should resolve the injustices of the levy as quickly as possible. And OMV, Axpo and Gunvor should forego the levy, RWE is already showing the way. Otherwise they provide further arguments for an excess profit tax.