Only those who really wanted to could persuade themselves in the past few months that Vladimir Putin and Gazprom are still reliable energy suppliers. The last veil fell last week: the Russian gas monopoly turned the gas tap completely arbitrarily, regardless of long-term contracts. And the federal government has finally woken up.
Europe’s most important pipeline, Nord Stream 1, is only running at 40 percent of its capacity on technical justifications that the federal government and industry professionals believe are implausible. The tactical goal is obvious: Germany and Europe should remain highly nervous due to low storage levels and exorbitant energy prices. In addition to military escalation, Putin also wants to stir up fears of idle industry and cold apartments.
There can only be one answer: Germany and the EU must finally behave as if no more gas will flow from Russia tomorrow. And that means not only opening up alternative sources of gas, but also working hard to save on consumption, which has so far not fallen further than was to be expected from the market mechanism given the high prices. If one continued to rely on Russian gas to fill the storage facilities, it would only lead to Putin reducing supplies again – in the end perhaps to zero.
The federal government was caught off guard by the delivery cutback in the middle of summer. The fact that she has been hoping that the flow of gas from Russia would not dry up completely is shown by the hectic activity that has now broken out. At the weekend, Economics Minister Robert Habeck presented a package cobbled together at short notice that should finally bring savings.
Some of this is already known and has been prepared by the legislature, but details are still missing elsewhere. For example, it is unclear according to which rules which coal-fired power plants are to be mothballed and brought to market within a few weeks.
Particularly annoying: In the past few weeks, gross mischief has also been launched, above all subsidy payments for industrial gas consumers. The fuel price rebate, even if it affects the oil market and not the gas market, also belongs in this category. Really, the last thing you should do in this situation is to cause additional consumption. Both should be stopped immediately. Third mistake: The Greens have so far refused to start at least stretching operations for the three remaining nuclear power plants until spring 2023. In this situation, that would be a reasonable compromise even for an anti-nuclear party.
Is there a risk that the energy transition and climate protection will fall by the wayside, especially as a result of the reactivation of coal power? Only if the federal government wants it, and there are no signs of that. The temporary use of coal only has to be a cause for concern if it is indefinite.
Gas is hardly more climate-friendly anyway, taking methane leaks into account. The floating gas ports (LNG terminals) on the coast, which can be installed quickly, are also a temporary solution. You have to be careful with long-term investments: Permanently installed gas terminals that have been running for decades and the corresponding supply contracts can become a climate mortgage in a few years.
If you draw a big line under it, the almost certainly sealed farewell to Russian cheap gas is good for climate protection anyway. Wind and solar power are more profitable than ever and are facing a huge investment boom, as are heat pumps as a replacement for gas heating, electric cars and energy-saving renovations. One or the other small and short-term climate compromise to get through the winter is not only bearable, but urgently necessary.