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ENERGY

German ministries back nuclear exit despite energy woes

Germany should not extend the life of its remaining nuclear power plants, two ministries said on Tuesday, as Europe's largest economy wrestles with its dependence on Russian energy imports following the invasion of Ukraine.

The nuclear power plant in Gundremmingen, Swabia, stopped operating on December 31st 2021 as part of Germany's nuclear phase-out.
The nuclear power plant in Gundremmingen, Swabia, stopped operating on December 31st 2021 as part of Germany's nuclear phase-out. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Puchner

An extension for the country’s three remaining installations, which are due to be switched off at the end of the year, was “not advisable even in light of the current gas crisis”, a report from the economy and environment ministries said.

Keeping the plants running would not help tackle a crunch at the end of this year, when demand will be highest, and would only see electricity supplies rise “from autumn 2023 at the soonest”.

Increased output from nuclear sites would “barely substitute” the need for gas, which is used to heat businesses and homes as well as for generating
electricity.

An extension would face significant administrative hurdles and would need to last “minimum three-to-five years”, the report said.

Gas makes up over a quarter of Germany’s energy mix, with the country importing more than half of those supplies via pipelines from Russia.

READ ALSO: Russian energy imports ‘essential’ to Europeans’ lives, says German chancellor

The invasion of Ukraine has accelerated a move away from dependence on Russia, with the government announcing increased investments in renewables and LNG terminals for gas imports form overseas.

The potential shortfall has also led to speculation that Germany could make longer use of its existing nuclear power plants.

Under former chancellor Angela Merkel, the country decided to speed up its exit from nuclear power in 2011, following the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Three plants were decommissioned at the end of 2021, while the final three are set to be switched of at the end of this year.

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UKRAINE

Germany and G7 to ‘develop a price cap’ on Russian oil

G7 leaders, including Germany, have agreed to work on a price cap for Russian oil as part of efforts to cut the Kremlin's revenues. Here's a look at what's been happening at the summit in Bavaria.

Germany and G7 to 'develop a price cap' on Russian oil

The Group of Seven leaders will “task ministers to work urgently towards developing, consulting with third countries and the private sector in an effort to develop a price cap around oil”, a senior US official told reporters.

The goal of the plan is to starve the Kremlin of its “main source of cash and force down the price of Russian oil”, the official said.

The official announcement is expected to come in the final communique later as a three-day G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps draws to a close.

The United States has led the push for an oil price cap at the gathering of the club of rich nations — which also includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The move is designed to place Vladimir Putin’s regime under increased economic pressure and to punish the hostile nation for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

“There is consensus emerging… that the price cap is a serious method to achieve that outcome,” President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told reporters at Germany’s G7 summit on Monday. 

READ ALSO:

While the West has already imposed multiple layers of sanctions on Russia in response to Putin’s order to invade Ukraine in February, the targeting of the oil industry represents the highest economic stakes so far.

The idea is that consumer countries would effectively set a low price for Russian oil, while Moscow, needing the revenue, would have no choice but to accept.

There are major questions, however, about unity among consumer countries and whether Russia really would cave in or instead might retaliate by cutting energy supplies to Europe.

Energy exports are Russia’s biggest revenue earner, while Western countries are among those most heavily dependent on imported oil and gas.

According to Sullivan, the main obstacle to the idea is not so much willingness to go ahead but sorting out the immensely complex logistical and technical aspects.

“The single biggest factor here is that this is not something that can be pulled off the shelf,” Sullivan said.

“It is a new kind of concept to deal with a particularly novel challenge, which is how to effectively deal with a country that’s selling millions of barrels of oil a day and (to) try to deprive it of some of the revenues.”

Spillover fears

With soaring fuel prices at the heart of painfully high inflation in Germany and other G7 countries, leaders want to be sure that any oil price cap would also “minimise the spillovers and the impact on the G7 economies and the rest of the world.”

“The G7 leaders are going to acknowledge those two objectives and also acknowledge that the path forward is to urgently direct ministers to work on achieving a price cap which can, in our judgement, best achieve both of those objectives simultaneously,” the senior US official said.

The idea of price capping Russian oil — and also gas — has support from Italy and also France.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: Germany hosts G7 summit with Bavarian twist

Elmau Castle, Bavaria

The leaders of Group of Seven rich nations hold a meeting at Elmau Castle in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The French presidency has however said the measure would be “much more powerful if it came from the producing countries”, and that it was necessary to work with OPEC+ and other oil producers around the world.

The United States and Canada, which are far less reliant on Russia as an energy supplier, have banned all Russian oil imports. Europe is seeking to lessen its own reliance.

In another measure meant to punish Russia and increase assistance to pro-Western Ukraine, the G7 plans to turn funds raised in recently imposed trade tariffs on Russian exports into assistance for Ukraine.

G7 leaders “will seek authority to use revenues collected by any new tariffs on Russian goods to help Ukraine and to ensure that Russia pays for the cost of its war”, the senior US official told reporters.

Condemnation of civilian attacks 

A missile strike on a shopping mall in Ukraine’s Kremenchuk city, which occurred while leaders were meeting in Bavaria’s Schloss Elmau, also drew fierce criticism from the political leaders. 

Russia’s “brutal” missile strike on the crowded shopping mall in central Ukraine constitutes a war crime, the G7 leaders said, vowing that Putin and those responsible would be held to account.

“Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime,” the leaders said in a statement. “We solemnly condemn the abominable attack.” 

Ukraine accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians, with President Volodymyr Zelensky calling it “one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history” in his evening broadcast posted on Telegram.

“A peaceful town, an ordinary shopping centre — women, children ordinary civilians inside,” said Zelensky, who earlier shared a video of the mall engulfed in flames with dozens of rescuers and a fire truck outside.

Alongside measures like the cap on oil, the leaders of the seven wealthy nations also discussed weapons deliveries to the Ukraine, the ongoing food crisis caused by the war, and measures to tackle climate change. 

The industralised nations have pledged a total of $14 billion to help tackle food shortages and have called on countries to avoid stockpiling food in the wake of the crisis.

The war in Ukraine, a country known as Europe’s breadbasket, has pushed up food prices and led to shortages, as Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports prevents millions of tonnes of grain from being shipped out.

This has led to fears of famine in developing nations as well as soaring prices in economies like Germany. 

READ ALSO: Germany will see further food price hikes, says minister

‘Continued support’ 

Addressing the leaders by video link, Zelensky had urged them to “intensify sanctions” to help end the war before the bitter winter.

“We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the G7 said in a statement on the summit’s second day.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), who was hosting the summit, said on Monday that the Group of Seven would continue to turn up the heat on Putin in order to ensure a swift end to the war. 

“As G7 we stand united on Ukraine’s side and will continue our support. For this, we all have to take tough but necessary decisions,” Scholz tweeted, thanking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for addressing world leaders by video link.

“We will continue to increase pressure on Putin. This war has to come to an end.”

READ ALSO: Macron, Scholz and Draghi meet Ukrainian president in Kyiv

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