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ENERGY

German minister warns energy security trumps porpoise habitat

Germany's economy minister has urged environmental activists to avoid filing lawsuits against plans for new LNG terminals, warning that their zealousness to save porpoises could inadvertently strengthen the hand of Vladimir Putin.

Robert Habeck, Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, takes part in a boat tour for liquefied natural gas imports to Germany on Wednesday in Wilhelmshaven.
Robert Habeck, Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, takes part in a boat tour for liquefied natural gas imports to Germany on Wednesday in Wilhelmshaven. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sina Schuldt

Germany is racing to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to receive gas from farther afield in its bid to quickly turn its back on piped-in Russian energy following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

But German environmental group DUH has filed an opposition against the building of terminals at Wilhelmshaven. The group says the construction will “irreversibly destroy sensitive ecosystems as well as endanger the living space of threatened porpoises”.

“I am the biggest porpoise fan in the government,” said Economy Minister Robert Habeck of the Green party in an interview with RTL broadcaster late Wednesday.

But “your lawsuit would put us in greater dependence” on Russian energy, he warned.

The process of liquefaction makes LNG easier to transport, allowing it to be imported by sea from producer countries that cannot be connected by pipelines, such as the United States or Qatar.

READ ALSO: Germany warns of possible disruptions to oil supply with EU Russia ban

The terminals being constructed are essentially infrastructure for special ships that unload tanks of LNG brought in by sea. They also include equipment for re-gasification, storage and compression.

Germany currently has no LNG terminals as it had counted on expanding its pipeline links with Russia for more energy.

However, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has upended those calculations, and Berlin is now expediting the process to build four LNG terminals.

The first of such terminals should be up and running by the coming winter at the port of Wilhelmshaven.

A second is due to be built at Brunsbüttel, close to Hamburg, by early 2023. The sites for two other terminals are being examined.

Besides concern for marine life, environmentalists are also critical of the plans to ship in LNG, given that it is a fossil fuel, and given the emissions that the transportation of the energy would generate.

“We must not forget that fossil gas is a climate killer. Building new LNG terminals drives us into a fossil dead-end and burns money,” Martin Kaiser, who heads the German chapter of Greenpeace, told Rheinische Post newspaper.

But as Germany pivots to sustainable sources to meet its 2045 carbon-neutral goal, the government has said that natural gas is a necessary transition energy source.

With the EU now debating a Russian oil embargo, Habeck has in the last days been psychologically preparing Germans for possible energy disruptions.

On Wednesday, he warned that there could be petrol “shortages” hitting specific regions, including Berlin where 90 percent of oil consumed stem from a refinery that processes Russian oil.

Since the war in Ukraine, Germany has slashed its oil imports from Russia to 12 percent of the total from 35 percent previously.

 By Hui Min NEO

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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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