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Robert Habecks Wende: Energy Security During the Ukraine War

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DRobert Habeck’s lines of concern are hard to miss. On Tuesday, the Minister of Economy and Climate Protection again stood in front of the blue wall of his ministry to comment on the consequences of the Ukraine war. It doesn’t matter that the day in Berlin is a public holiday. Employees at his company have been working at absolute “full capacity” for weeks,” Habeck replied when asked when the bill would be ready. The look on his face suggested this applies to him as well.

After the change of government, it was some time before the new name of the ministry in Berlin’s Invalidenstraße found its way. Economy and climate protection instead of economy and energy: for outsiders this may not make a big difference, for Habeck and his party it was hugely important. Climate protection should no longer be something that a ministry does on the sidelines, the expansion of wind and solar energy should have top priority. But since the start of the war, Habeck has had to talk a lot about fossil fuels again. Why Germany needs two terminals for liquefied gas, for example. And also why he doesn’t want to stop energy imports from Russia just yet. Otherwise, there is a risk of “serious social damage,” Habeck warned on Tuesday. On Wednesday night he promised on ZDF: “We will quickly free ourselves from the support of Russian imports. But we are not there yet.”

between the chairs

The Green Economy Minister is sitting between the chairs in a similar way to how the Greens’ Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer once did. Ironically, when the peace party was in the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) in 1999, the Bundeswehr’s first combat mission after World War II became necessary in the war in Kosovo. Given the serious violations of human rights there, Fischer justified the military attack in the following way: “We always said: never more war! But we always said: never again Auschwitz!

Habeck similarly had to weigh green convictions when he agreed to arms deliveries to Ukraine, in the middle of a war zone, and billions in payments to upgrade the German armed forces. The announcement that the life extension of the remaining nuclear reactors would be examined and the willingness to delay the process of closing coal-fired power plants was also ideologically painful for him.

These mind games were made necessary by Germany’s dependence on Russia. More than half of our gas imports and a good third of our coal imports come from the country. That is why even domestic lignite is being discussed again, although it emits a particularly large amount of carbon dioxide and is the least favorite of green climate savers.

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Habeck and his party have long warned against unilateral supplies from Russia and have therefore rejected the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. However, this attitude became incongruous at the latest in the coalition agreement, which provides for the construction of new gas-fired power plants as a transition technique until the generation of green electricity, which of course should have been supplied by Russian sources, is complete.

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