German economic minister warns of ‘catastrophic’ winter over Russian gas cut fears

Germany will face a “crucial test” in the winter, warns the country’s economic minister

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody
German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck shows a diagram about German gas storage during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck has warned of a catastrophic winter for Germans overs fears of a cut to the supply of gas from Russia.

The vice-chancellor warned of a nightmare scenario in winter because of the impending lack of energy, with the government already implementing gas alert measures due to dwindling supplies from Russia. Habeck, who belongs to the country’s Green party, told the Deutschlandfunk broadcaster he was under no illusions as to the severity of the crisis.

According to him, Germany will face a “crucial test that we haven’t faced for a long time.”

Habeck referred to the difficult decisions that lie ahead, in which the government will likely have to decide who gets gas and who does not, which would represent a major government intervention into the market. He said the government’s aim will be to ensure the supply of critical infrastructure such as hospitals and retirement homes.

Despite the crisis, Habeck says reopening nuclear power plants is out of the question. Instead, the government must ensure Germans save on energy and store an adequate amount of gas. The issue of nuclear power is especially sensitive for the Green party, with many of its longest serving members dedicating a substantial portion of their political lives to ending nuclear power in Germany.

Habeck is warning that further price increases for energy are on the horizon. Electricity prices on the wholesale market have already tripled in the last year, and some experts are warning they will quadruple. Although end consumers have not been hit with the bill yet, the bills are coming, and they are expecting to serve as a major price shock for both German households and businesses in the coming year.

According to Habeck, the situation would be “demanding” for many people, and the minister called for more political support. He said that social inequality is too high, and the government and social partners must now discuss relief measures. He indicated that there were already initial meetings on how to provide such social support, but they have until now ended without any progress.

The Greens, which are looking to increase social welfare handouts in the face of the energy crisis, are facing opposition from their coalition partners, the Free Democrat Party (FDP), known for its conservative view on spending. For example, efforts to expand a €9 regional train ticket beyond three months have been nixed by the FDP despite strong backing from the Greens.

Other parties are blaming the Green party and other ruling parties for bringing the crisis down on Germany. For example, both the Left Party and Alternative for Germany (AfD) have called for an end to EU sanctions against Russia, which both parties argue are not only ineffective but also punishing the most vulnerable.

“The imposed economic sanctions harm Germany far more than Russia and are therefore wrong. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline must be put into operation,” said the socio-political spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group, René Springer.

In addition, Springer called for German nuclear power plants to continue operating, the immediate abolition of the CO₂ tax, and a reduction in energy taxes.

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