Concern over gas standoff remains: Putin’s hypocrisy continues to make Germany afraid – politics

Klaus Müller seems to have set the alarm too early. Early in the morning the president of the Federal Network Agency informed via Twitter what is happening to the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 1 after the ten-day maintenance. The Greens politician and confidant of Finance Minister Habeck tweeted heavily the day before.

Gazprom announced that it will supply 800 gigawatt hours of natural gas. A few hours later, Müller again on Twitter. Gazprom wants to deliver only 530 gigawatt hours.

On Thursday morning, after it became clear that gas was flowing back to Germany from Russia, Mueller tweeted again. Natural gas flows so far would show about 700 gigawatt-hours that day — about the gas level before the maintenance.

What are Steinmeier and Merkel thinking these days?

“Unfortunately, political uncertainty and the 60 percent cut since mid-June remain,” Mueller wrote. It’s probably meant as a transparency service, but Müller’s excited tweets reflect the mood in the federal government — and its own weakness when it comes to gas deliveries from Russia.

Previous architects of Russia policy, from Angela Merkel to Frank-Walter Steinmeier, need to learn that in hindsight Moscow’s continued increase in dependence on natural gas can be characterized as a historic mistake. Until recently, the finance ministry was uncertain whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would turn the gas tap back on.

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Baerbock fears riots without gas

In the ten days without gas from Nord Stream 1, concern had increasingly turned to panic, likely in the spirit of Putin. A discussion about the rationing had given a gloomy outlook for the winter.

At an event on Wednesday evening, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) even warned of possible “popular uprisings” that could threaten a permanent gas cut. But price hikes, which could triple in the medium term, as well as significantly higher electricity costs, are also raising alarm in the federal government.

Moscow-friendly Hungary wants more natural gas

The pressure Putin had recently created with his targeted confusion over an allegedly faulty gas turbine appears to be having an impact on those involved in Berlin.

And how he is increasingly trying to divide Europe with his game is shown by the fact that Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto traveled to Moscow on Thursday to seal the delivery of an additional 700 million cubic meters of natural gas from Russia, while the most tough countries such as p. as Germany was on Putin’s side must continue to tremble.

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Klaus Müller, President of the Federal Network Agency visits Germany's largest gas storage facility in Rehden (Lower Saxony).  Photo: Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/dpa

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Klaus Müller, President of the Federal Network Agency visits Germany’s largest gas storage facility in Rehden (Lower Saxony).
© Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/dpa

Fill storage faster, less heating

In a press conference, Habeck and Müller try to get back on the attack. The interior minister, who has been infected with the coronavirus, criticizes Russia as an “unsafe cantonist” when it comes to energy supplies. Russia is using its natural gas to blackmail Germany.

From the living room he vows the population to a joint effort: “We need to stay in power, winter has not come,” says Hambeck, who expects that next year’s winter will also be a challenge for Germany and the EU.

The federal government wants to respond to the ongoing risk of a natural gas freeze with another energy security law, Habeck announced, and laid out a whole list of ideas to save natural gas. Gas storage tanks are to be filled faster than the law and will be 75 percent full by Sept. 1 and 85 percent by Oct. 1.

Habeck complains that large storage facilities are still too empty, citing companies such as Uniper, which recently even withdrew natural gas due to payment difficulties. In addition, a regulation is intended to use more coal and oil for rail transport. More biogas is due to come on the market and electricity generation from lignite will increase again on 1 October.

Map showing the main natural gas pipelines in and to Europe.  Photo: AFP

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Map showing the main natural gas pipelines in and to Europe.
© AFP

“The mother of the orange box is careful”

But Habeck also wants to save more natural gas to industry and private households. Large companies will be forced to implement energy saving measures now, which will pay off again within two years due to lower consumption.

In public buildings, corridors no longer have to be heated in winter, between Christmas and New Year, Habeck can imagine such a regulation for companies as well.

Apartment tenants should also be exempt from their landlords’ requirements to maintain a certain room temperature even if they are away for several days. “We want to suspend this minimum temperature heating obligation,” says Habeck. It is not explicitly about lowering the minimum temperatures that owners must guarantee.

Even private swimming pools will no longer have to be heated with natural gas and ‘heat control’ will become mandatory. “The mother of the porcelain box is careful,” Habeck explains the measures. When asked, however, Habeck did not know how much gas could be saved this way.

Despite the shortage, natural gas is being converted into electricity at record levels – also because French nuclear plants are idle

The paradox: Despite gas bottlenecks and underfilled storage facilities, more gas is used to generate electricity today than ever before. On Thursday morning alone around 09.15, natural gas electricity generation was 10,089 megawatts, for comparison: nuclear power generation at that time was 3,968 megawatts, coal was 5,775 megawatts, only lignite (12,899 MW) and solar (13,642 MW) produced more electricity than natural gas.

This is partly related to the European electricity market. Since many nuclear plants in France are idle for maintenance or lack of water due to heat, electricity exports are increasing. However, since generating electricity with gas is particularly expensive, it also currently increases electricity prices.

Utilities fear the worst

Until the Russian invasion of Ukraine, gas-fired power plants were seen as the ideal partner for renewables: unlike nuclear and coal-fired power plants, gas-fired power plants can be ramped up quickly to compensate for fluctuations of solar and wind energy production. And with the prospect of Nord Stream 2 and cheap Russian natural gas, many municipal utilities are currently relying on gas-fired power plants.

The need is correspondingly great here. The general director of the Association of Municipal Enterprises (VKU), Ingbert Liebing, emphasizes: “The restart of Nord Stream 1 is a good message at first glance.

On second glance, however, this is no reason to sit back and relax, because reduced deliveries show that Putin is using natural gas as a weapon in his economic war.” Politicians, the energy industry, business and the public must not give up. save gas now.

Piping systems and shutdown devices at the gas receiving station of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline in Lubmin.  Photo: Stefan Sauer/dpa

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Piping systems and shutdown devices at the gas receiving station of the Nord Stream 1 Baltic Sea pipeline in Lubmin.
© Stefan Sauer/dpa

A call for a protective shield – to protect citizens from exploding costs

“Our country and its society are under economic attack from Russia – all measures that reduce natural gas consumption serve as a preventive measure and ultimately as our defense.”

Storage facilities should be at least 90 percent full by fall. The representative of about 800 municipal utilities is calling for a government umbrella “so that they can maintain an affordable energy supply” because of extremely high prices for municipal utilities and municipal energy suppliers.

Because even in the event of a complete disruption of deliveries, prices and costs should not be passed on to customers “leading to uncontrollable market reactions and further social burdens”.

The Union is calling for more advertising for sanctions – but many citizens doubt the benefit

In the face of a dramatic shift in mood, the Union is calling on the federal government to do more to enlist support for sanctions against Russia. Putin is counting on getting used to and softening in the face of war in the West and especially wants Germany to “wear out the energy issue”, says parliamentary group leader Johann Wadephul (CDU). “This calculation should not add up.”

The federal government must more clearly address criticism of the West’s sanctions policy. The rule applies: “Never put your hand in the hornet’s nest, and if you do, then firmly.” Wadephul denies that there are also movements in the CDU to move away from the federal government’s and the West’s Russia policy in his party there. it is “unity” in this respect.

However, Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) recently criticized the consequences of the sanctions and called for a negotiated solution based on the status quo to end the war with German help. According to a Forsa survey, 53% now see more damage to Germany than to Russia – it was Chancellor Scholz’s principle that sanctions should never hurt Germany again.

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