In times of need, everyone has to tighten their belts. You hear that a lot now. Energy should be saved, the shower time reduced, and the cold should be defied in winter with scarves and sweaters. Germany wants to make itself independent of Russian natural gas. Not a day goes by without the seriousness of the situation and the urgency of renunciation being invoked. So it is right. The Economist has called what is to come in a few months’ time a “gas tragedy”.
Robert Habeck, the Federal Minister of Economics, is a master of appeals made with a worried expression. However, it would be easier to follow him if the Greens were a little more open and humble about their part in the misery. Dealing with the past: That’s a big word that shouldn’t be overused. But insight is the first step to recovery, and remorse comes before forgiveness.
The core of the brand of the Greens is energy policy. They grew up fighting nuclear power. In the red-green coalition, they pushed through the phase-out of nuclear power, which the black-yellow coalition under Angela Merkel initially conceded, but then radicalized after the Fukushima reactor accident in March 2011. The Union, FDP, SPD and Greens voted for the corresponding law. During the debate in the Bundestag, the parties mainly competed over who argued the most convincingly in favor of an exit. The words “Russia” and “Putin” were not mentioned once.
Two things were already clear back then. First, nobody could have had any illusions about Vladimir Putin. Three years earlier he had marched his troops into Georgia. He ruled authoritarian, autocratic and neo-hegemonic. He had journalists murdered and suppressed the opposition.
Second, the German nuclear phase-out increased the need for Russian natural gas imports. They were considered clean, in contrast to climate-damaging coal, especially since the expansion of renewable energies was not progressing fast enough. At the end of 2011, the Nord Stream 1 pipeline was put into operation, which had been agreed with Russia in 2005, when it was still under Red-Green. Putin laughed into his clenched fist. The Russian dealer had bred willing German junkies.
According to the traffic light coalition agreement, coal should “ideally” be phased out by 2030. That exacerbates the problem. Because it is still necessary to have a base load that can be called up at any time and is available when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. That is why the coalition agreement also states: “Natural gas is indispensable for a transitional period.” The construction of new natural gas-powered power plants is to be promoted. The Green party leadership has expressly accepted gas as a bridging technology.
Everything has a cause. It should be obvious that there is a causal connection between the nuclear and coal phase-out on the one hand and Germany’s dependence on gas on the other. Concerns about radioactivity, nuclear waste and carbon dioxide emissions have supplanted the geopolitical view of the beneficiary of those concerns – Vladimir Putin. No one can take responsibility for the resulting debacle away from the Greens.