German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sits inside an electric truck during his visit at the Swedish truck manufacturer Scania headquarters in Sodertalje, Sweden August 16, 2022. Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. SWEDEN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SWEDEN.

Is the chancellor already tired of office? Olaf Scholz is behind the wheel of a battery-powered truck. And grins. This is probably the best moment for him this week, he says. He has fun in times of constant crisis and constant pressure. The chancellor shoos photographers away from the top of the driver’s seat of the 7.5-ton truck with a wave of his hand.

A German bodyguard asks the other: “Are you coming with us?” Answer: “Nope, I’m too unsure.” The chancellor does have a driver’s license. But he sold his car some time ago. The bodyguards prefer to follow in the chancellor’s limousine.

Scholz gently accelerates and buzzes away. The test track on the Scania site near Stockholm is three kilometers accident-free. Then Scholz climbs out of the cab and says in English: “I want to be a truck driver.”

Scholz emphasizes that this is about securing jobs for truckers and new jobs for climate-neutral transport, for example through new battery factories. Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson drove in the other truck – for a picture we sit together again in a truck with Andersson at the wheel.

“We’re both going to be truckers now, and then our future will be secured,” says Scholz.

Olaf Scholz previously took note of the “scream” rather motionlessly. During the tour of the Munch Museum, a chancellor can be seen gazing at the scene thoughtfully. The painting somehow fits the times of the year 2022. After all, Edvard Munch processed an anxiety attack in his most famous work.

Scholz’s most important task is to take away the public’s fears of high costs and a future threatened by war and climate change. This task also follows him in Oslo and then on Tuesday in Stockholm.

First there was a meeting with the Nordic leaders, four women – Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Iceland), Mette Frederiksen (Denmark), Magdalena Andersson (Sweden) and Sanna Marin (Finland) at Oslo’s Munch Museum, whose 13 floors bend spectacularly towards the bay. – and a man, Jonas Gahr Store (Norway). Scholz, who likes to call himself a feminist, praises the Nordic countries as a “role model”. It is also a social-democratic family reunion, the Icelander Jakobsdottir notes that as a left-green party, she is almost a little out of the ordinary here.

However, there was disagreement over the question of whether Russians should be banned from entering the EU in order to increase internal pressure on Vladimir Putin. The Finn Marin made headlines again at the weekend with a casual outfit for visiting a festival, she is the one who most clearly shows a disagreement with Scholz.

At the press conference, everyone on the podium should give their opinion on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for an entry ban for Russians in order to increase internal pressure on Vladimir Putin. Finland’s Marin says: “I don’t think it’s right that Russian citizens can enter the EU and the Schengen area as tourists and go sightseeing while Russia is killing people in Ukraine.”

Scholz, on the other hand, reiterates his controversial thesis: “This is Putin’s war, not the Russians’ war.” One should not make it more difficult for opposition Russians who wanted to go to Europe and many of whom were already in EU countries to flee, says Scholz. But there are also many people in the country who support the war, who are caught by the one-sided propaganda that can be seen on television every day.

That is why Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says that a visa ban should be discussed. The drivers of a visa ban are Finland, Estonia and Lithuania because, as border countries, they continue to have many visitors from Russia who stock up on goods there that fall under EU sanctions.

After the Nordic-German meeting, the chancellor and the Norwegian prime minister, Gahr Store, take a boat – electrically powered, of course – over to the government guest house. It almost blows both of them away, heavy rain has set in. “I thought the weather was great,” said Hanseat Scholz afterwards. “We’re not made of sugar.” It somehow fits the situation around the stoic Scholz.

After the bilateral meeting, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store from the Social Democratic Labor Party and Sweden’s Andersson praised Germany as the most important partner in Europe. It is of enormous importance that Germany is now investing so heavily in its defence. Scholz has also ushered in a turning point in energy policy, says Gahr Store. “You’re with friends, Olaf.”

But the appearance is not quite so clear.

This Scandinavia trip shows Germany’s new role, that of a supplicant and dependent on the solidarity of others because it has bet too much on the Russia card. New supply contracts with Qatar have so far not worked out because the country wants long-term contracts, but the traffic light coalition sees gas only as a bridge until there are enough renewable energies and market-ready hydrogen technologies.

The cash registers have been ringing in Norway since the beginning of the war, the country is gradually replacing Russia as the most important supplier in Germany, and offshore production in the North Sea has been expanded. From January to April this year, Norway exported almost 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Germany, almost twice as much as in the same period last year in 2021.

Three out of seven Norwegian export pipelines lead to Germany, and a lot of natural gas comes by tanker. Liquid gas transport is also to be expanded: Germany wants to rent two floating liquid gas terminals from Norway for imports. Gahr Store emphasizes that production increased by almost ten percent after the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Energy company Equinor’s net profit has tripled. For the second quarter, the group reported a profit of more than 6.6 billion euros. But then the prime minister says a sentence that is sobering for Scholz: “Norway delivers at most what we can deliver.” More is not possible, the development of new sources takes time.

This means that after Qatar, another country’s hope of being able to quickly purchase additional quantities of gas – and soon get the prices under control again – has been dashed. Because every shortage means that these can continue to rise. Above all, Russia is benefiting from this and, despite fewer deliveries, is continuing to fill its own war chest.

From Scandinavia, Scholz also intervened on the domestic controversial issue of the gas levy; they are working intensively on another billion-dollar package. But the crucial question remains unanswered: How is this to be financed? Where Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) wants to keep the money together and in the coming year wants to comply with the debt brake by hook or by crook. About a supplementary budget? Will there be more energy price flat rates in addition to the 300 euros in September?

Part of the Scholz method is not to commit yourself until the result is known – then you can’t look like a loser either. As a rule, he doesn’t make any promises, but his “You’ll never walk alone” arouses great expectations, and he will now be judged by that.

Above all, Scholz needs more gas so that Germany can get through the winter without any major upheavals. The gas levy was introduced as an emergency instrument to support gas traders, since they have enormous additional expenses because they have to obtain gas from other sources, and have less and less cheap Russian gas is sent.

Scholz emphasizes that the entire infrastructure is now being rebuilt in such a way that you will never again be as dependent on a country as you are on Russia. Four liquid gas terminals in Lubmin, Stade, Brunsbüttel and Wilhelmshaven are to be connected to the grid as quickly as possible. “I am very happy that we have a secure, democratic and reliable partner in Norway. You can rely on Norway,” says the Chancellor.

In Germany, the government is preparing the citizens for a loss of prosperity, in Norway prosperity is growing, especially because of the energy issue. Gahr Store has another business area in mind. The capture and underground injection of CO2 under the North Sea (CCS) to achieve the European climate targets.

CO2 could also come here from Germany, the energy giants Equinor, Shell and Total are planning pipelines in the North Sea to inject millions of tons of CO2 underground every year. Scholz found the pilot projects in Germany exciting, for example by Vattenfall in Lusatia for lignite-fired power plants. But then citizens rebelled against the dangers of “CO2 repositories”, especially in Schleswig-Holstein, where there are suitable storage areas – and the plans were dead.

“We know your fears,” says Gahr Store. “We can tell a different story.” Experience has been gained here for 30 years that the CO2 is pressed 3,000 meters below the sea floor. “This is a secure storage location.”

In Stockholm on Tuesday, the chancellor and the Swedish prime minister will be asked whether the Swedes will have to save more energy so that Germany can survive the winter. Both responded diplomatically, referring to the EU plan to save 15 percent of energy through less lighting, heating and air conditioning or shorter showers.

This is intended to compensate for reduced gas supplies from Russia. But Andersson also says that an increase in electricity supplies, for example, is also limited. “We looked at it again this morning. The line was full.” A lack of transport capacity is another obstacle.

Scholz stayed at the Grand Hotel Stockholm, where the Nobel Prize winners stay before they are honored. The chancellor needs special solutions to get out of the defensive when it comes to energy and climate change.