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UKRAINE

‘Whatever it takes’: Calls grow for painful German blockade of Russian gas

Germany has rejected a complete ban on Russian gas and oil imports over Russia invading Ukraine, but voices are growing louder for Berlin to ditch its economic imperative to take a moral stand. 

'Whatever it takes': Calls grow for painful German blockade of Russian gas
A natural gas station in eastern Germany. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

After the United States and Britain imposed a ban on Russian oil, pressure has mounted on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government and other G7 members to follow suit.    

A group of climate activists, academics, authors and scientists published an open letter to the German government on Wednesday demanding a complete ban on Russian energy, reasoning that “we are all financing this war”.    

In a newspaper opinion piece this week, conservative lawmaker and foreign policy expert Norbert Roettgen also said the only correct course of action was to “stop Russia’s oil and gas business now”.    

“Nearly a billion euros ($1.1 billion) are being poured into (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war chests every day, thwarting our sanctions against the Russian central bank” and “for many Ukrainians, it will be too late if we hesitate now,” he wrote.    

So far, Scholz’s government has remained unmoved, reasoning that sanctions should not risk destabilising the countries imposing them.    

Since Germany imports more than half its gas and coal and about a third of its oil from Russia, experts say a transition period would be needed to avoid the lights going out.    

READ ALSO: How Germany could end its dependence on Russian energy

“If we end up in a situation where nurses and teachers are not coming to work, where we have no electricity for several days… Putin will have won part of the battle, because he will have plunged other countries into chaos,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned on Tuesday.    

Underlining the precariousness of Germany’s situation, Baerbock also admitted in a separate interview that Economy Minister Robert Habeck, also of the ecologist Green party, was “urgently trying to buy hard coal worldwide”.    

Experts say a complete embargo would be painful, but not impossible.

‘Whatever it takes’

In a study published this week, nine economists argued that oil and coal from Russia could easily be replaced by imports from other countries, though this could be a little trickier for gas.    

If Russian gas cannot be fully compensated for by other suppliers, households and businesses “would have to accept a 30 percent drop in supply”, and Germany’s total energy consumption would dip by around eight percent, the study said.    

According to the economists, GDP could fall by 0.2 to 3 percent and the sanctions could cost each German between 80 and 1,000 euros a year, depending on how much Russian gas can be replaced.    

The Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences has also said that temporarily stopping Russian gas supplies would be tough but manageable for the German economy, “even if energy bottlenecks could occur in the coming winter”.    

But, to protect consumers against price hikes and to encourage the transition to renewable energy, significant government support would likely be needed.    

For the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, a war in Europe is an “emergency” that justifies continuing with the “whatever it takes” mentality spawned by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Germany can borrow money for this,” it said, arguing that a “rich” country like Germany “can and must afford” to step away from Russian energy.    

Observers have also noted that Germany has the option of delaying its nuclear exit – planned for the end of the year.   

Conservative Christoph Heusgen, a former adviser to Angela Merkel, told the ARD broadcaster that Germans are ready to turn down the heating to help.    

“People in Germany have shown such solidarity with the Ukrainians that they wouldn’t mind if it was a bit colder in their living rooms,” he said.    

According to a YouGov poll published this week, the majority of Germans would support a boycott of Russian oil and gas, with 54 percent of respondents saying they were strongly or somewhat in favour.

SEE ALSO: Russian energy imports ‘essential’ to Europeans’ lives, says German Chancellor

Member comments

  1. Shut the gas off. Don’t shut it off. Putin don’t care. He will sell it to china, they need it. And Germany and Europe will be in darkness. With skyrocketing prices. That doesn’t matter either really because the wealthiest can afford it. But average Joe is about to loose everything and suffer.

    Remember its all Putins fault. Absolutely nothing to do with 30 years of terrible policies.

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ENERGY

Should tenants in Germany be shielded from energy price hikes?

Gas prices have more than tripled in the past year, prompting tenants' rights advocates to call for more social support and a cap on energy costs.

Should tenants in Germany be shielded from energy price hikes?

The German’s Tenants’ Association is calling on the government to put together a new energy relief package to help renters deal with spiralling energy costs.

Gas has become an increasing scarce resource in Germany, with the Economics Ministry raising the alert level recently after Russia docked supplies by 60 percent.

The continued supply issues have caused prices to skyrocket. According to the German import prices published on Thursday, natural gas was three times as expensive in May 2022 as it was in May a year ago.

In light of the exploding prices, the German Tenants’ Association is putting the government under pressure to offer greater relief for renters.

READ ALSO: 

Proposals on the table include a moratorium on terminating tenancy agreements and a permanent heating cost subsidy for all low-income households.

The Tenants’ Association has argued that nobody should face eviction for being unable to cope with soaring bills and is urging the government to adjust housing benefits in line with the higher prices. 

Gas price cap

Renters’ advocates have also joined a chorus of people advocating for a cap on consumer gas prices to prevent costs from rising indefinitely.

Recently, Frank Bsirske, a member of the parliamentary Green Party and former head of the trade union Verdi, spoke out in favour of capping prices. Bavaria’s economics minister and Lower Saxony’s energy minister have also advocated for a gas price cap in the past. 

According to the tenants’ association, the vast majority of tenants use gas for heating and are directly affected by recent price increases.

At the G7 summit in Bavaria this week, leaders of the developed nations discussed plans for a coordinated cut in oil prices to prevent Russia from reaping the rewards of the energy crisis. 

In an initiative spearheaded by the US, the group of rich nations agreed to task ministers will developing a proposal that would see consumer countries refusing to pay more than a set price for oil imports from Russia.

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

A gas price cap would likely be carried out on a more national level, with the government regulating how much of their costs energy companies can pass onto consumers. 

Strict contract laws preventing sudden price hikes mean that tenants in Germany are unlikely to feel the full force of the rising gas prices this year

However, the Tenant’s Association pointed out that, if there is a significant reduction in gas imports, the Federal Network Agency could activate an emergency clause known as the price adjustment clause.

This would allow gas suppliers to pass on higher prices to their customers at short notice. 

The Tenants’ Association has warned that the consequences of an immediate market price adjustment, if it happens, should be legally regulated and socially cushioned.

In the case of the price adjustment clause being activated, the government would have to regulate the costs that companies were allowed to pass onto consumers to prevent social upheaval. 

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