The gas levy was THE hot topic in domestic politics in recent weeks. Because the traffic light had failed to limit the group of recipients of the money. A reconstruction now shows how this could have happened.

Respect was Olaf Scholz’s election campaign motto, with which he ultimately became Chancellor. However, his traffic light coalition partners have not met each other with respect in recent weeks. They insulted each other with the worst accusations. The reason for this was the gas levy, which customers are supposed to use to support stumbling gas importers. However, the project from the home of Economics Minister Robert Habeck was a non-starter, since economically healthy companies would also benefit from the levy ordinance that was initially passed. Now the “mirror” has reconstructed how the fatal error came about.

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Review: At the beginning of June, the Russian gas company Gazprom reduced its delivery volumes through the important gas pipeline Nord Stream 1 to 40 percent, and a little later even to just 20 percent. As a result, the gas importers have to make up for this shortfall somehow and stock up on much more expensive gas on the world market. With the huge quantities at stake, some companies, especially the largest German gas importer Uniper, quickly falter. The collapse of the gas market is to be feared.

So the idea of ​​making the gas customer jointly liable was born. But the dispute escalated at the first major meeting of top people from the Habeck Ministry and traffic light deputies on July 1st. But not about who should actually benefit from a support. The name is said to have been the main point of contention. Allocation or “balanced price adjustment”? And even now, during the subsequent formulation of the regulation, there are said to have been problems and confusion.

The “Spiegel” reconstruction makes it clear how great the pressure was on those involved. A regulation had to be found in no time at all to prevent the gas meltdown.

And it was in this phase that the crucial mistake apparently happened. Because the officials in the Ministry of Economic Affairs are constantly changing the text of the planned regulation, but when making changes they do not realize that the levy only benefits companies in trouble. Rather, it is stipulated that energy supply companies “those directly affected by the significant reduction in gas import volumes to Germany” are entitled to claim. Ergo: Even companies that do good business despite the gas problems would be paid from the wallets of all gas customers. At this point in early July, no one realizes that this is a blatant injustice.

As a result, companies will submit an application that themselves or at least their parent companies are making nice profits, such as a subsidiary of EnBW in Baden-Württemberg or the Austrian OMV. According to the “Spiegel” report, MPs pressed for the state to first help needy companies and then collect the costs from gas customers. That would probably not have caused the problem in the first place.

But at this time at the end of June, beginning of July, things have to be done quickly. According to “Spiegel”, the energy experts from the SPD, FDP and Greens will receive a draft from the Federal Ministry of Economics on June 30th, which was developed at lightning speed. Core of the idea: In order to support Uniper and other stumbling importers, all gas customers should share in the high procurement costs. The idea of ​​a levy was born, it originally came from an industry association. In general, lobbyists have a lot of influence on the government’s actions these days, as the “Welt am Sonntag” also reports.

The law, which is intended to pave the way for the Uniper rescue and the gas surcharge, will pass the Bundestag on July 7th. The question now is when the gas surcharge will take effect. On July 22, Chancellor Scholz, who had specially interrupted his vacation, announced that the gas levy should come. But it is neither clear at this point when it should come nor how much money the gas customers should shell out.

And now there would still have been a chance to limit the circle of recipients. According to a report by “Welt am Sonntag”, the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (VZBV) stated the following in a statement on July 30. “The present draft makes it clear in two places that the compensation payments provided for therein may only serve to prevent insolvencies, but not to secure profits at the expense of consumers”. And further: “However, this welcome approach is not backed up by appropriate specifications.” The warning went unheeded.

There are rumblings in political Berlin these days, after all the burdens on the citizens are constantly increasing, the calls for new relief are getting louder. On August 4, the cabinet agrees to the levy ordinance that was put together in such a hurry and under the greatest pressure. Even among the ministers, the mistake is not noticed.

But now, in mid-August, the suspicion is growing that solvent companies will also benefit from the gas levy, which is said to be 2.419 cents. According to the “Spiegel” reconstruction, three SPD deputies wrote a letter to “dear Robert” and urged the applicants to be named. When this does happen on August 22nd, it becomes clear what a mistake the traffic light and, above all, the responsible Minister Habeck made here.

Now the self-mutilation begins at the traffic light. The SPD is threatening a veto in the Bundestag, their parliamentary group leader Dirk Wiese is massively attacking Habeck. “The Habeck principle goes like this: Appearances ready for film, technical implementation questionable, and in the end the citizen pays for it.” The FDP speaks of a “Habeck levy” and tries to dismiss any complicity. And even in his own ranks, Habeck gets Zunder, Anton Hofreiter recognizes “a “clear mistake”. Other Greens shoot back and publicly attack the Chancellor. Respect? none.

It is also becoming clear to the coalition partners that something has slipped through here. At the closed meeting of the cabinet in Meseberg, Habeck added three measures to ensure that only really distressed companies benefit from the levy.

Are these legal? That remains to be seen and it is to be hoped that similar mistakes will not be repeated.