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Energy price brake at Illner: “Open heart surgery without anesthesia”

Energy price brake at Illner
“Open heart surgery without anesthesia”

By Marko Schlichting

The federal government has overturned the gas levy and wants to dampen the rising energy costs with a gas price brake. To do this, it wants to spend up to 200 billion euros. The guests at “Maybrit Illner” are trying to clarify what is coming to the citizens on Thursday evening.

Relief on Thursday afternoon. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Economics Minister Robert Habeck appear before the press in the Chancellery. They announce two pieces of news: the gas surcharge is not coming, but there should be a gas price brake. “Double boom,” that’s what Chancellor Scholz calls it.

On Thursday evening, the Minister of Finance is a guest of Maybrit Illner on ZDF. He was invited at short notice and wants to take the opportunity to explain the government’s measures. CDU leader Friedrich Merz is his opponent. But he cannot really criticize: The gas price brake was originally a proposal by the Union parties. But he knows that implementation will not be easy. “It’s like open-heart surgery without anesthesia,” he says, describing what the traffic light coalition will face in the coming weeks.

The energy situation is more difficult than expected. Because after the attacks on the Baltic Sea pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2, which became known at the beginning of the week, one thing is clear: gas from Russia will not flow through these pipelines anytime soon. Economics Minister Habeck has meanwhile made it clear: the two nuclear power plants in southern Germany are to remain connected to the grid until April 2023. “We’re not quite there yet, where we want to be,” says the finance minister at Maybrit Illner.

He would like an all-in solution: Not only should the three nuclear power plants still on the grid remain in operation, the two nuclear power plants that were shut down at the end of last year should resume operation and ideally run until the end of the crisis , i.e. probably by spring 2024. The Union parties are also demanding this. In addition, the financial aid decided on Thursday should free citizens and companies from the high energy costs, explains Finance Minister Lindner. However, energy prices would not be as low as before the crisis. “That would also send the wrong signal, because we want and have to save gas,” said the minister.

And that’s where Merz can now bring his criticism, which is to be expected, but still comes very quietly. The gas levy was a botch. “We don’t know what the coalition wants, but that’s also very complicated,” said Merz. Now there is a very complicated law marathon. “One can only hope that things will go better than in the first round.” The government’s measures are not formulated. A gas price brake is highly risky and it is good that a commission of experts is now dealing with it, said the CDU leader. If Merz had had something to say, he would have decided on the measures first and then set the financial framework. Merz now fears a kind of gas poker: international companies could try to buy cheap gas in Germany.

The federal government has chosen the opposite path: first the financing, then the measures should be presented – according to Green leader Nouripour in mid-October, Lindner would have preferred a little earlier. “We’re dealing with an energy war,” he says.

“I am the wealth manager of the citizens”

The gas price brake is to be financed despite the debt brake, which will take effect again next year. “I’m the asset manager of the citizens,” says Lindner. Every euro of debt must be repaid in the future – with interest. According to Lindner, the government is using a “defense shield” to finance the gas price brake. These are crisis-related loans that should not be used for traffic light projects. “Without the defensive shield, the debt brake would not have been able to be maintained next year, that’s clear,” admits Lindner.

According to Lindner, the best thing would be to cap gas and electricity prices internationally. When it comes to electricity prices, attempts are being made to find a pan-European solution. If that doesn’t work, a national way will be found. The gas market is much more complex. There doesn’t seem to be a real solution to this point yet.

As far as the gas levy is concerned, Nouripour explains: it just won’t come. The gas customers will be informed in writing by their gas suppliers as soon as the gas suppliers have been informed in writing. Economics Minister Habeck had already declared on Thursday afternoon that customers who had already been asked to pay for the levy by their suppliers should get their money back as soon as possible.

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