Just a moment ago, the Greens were considered the party that would provide the next chancellor. The refusal to do anything about the energy crisis is destroying the trust that the party leadership has built up.
Until a week ago, the energy crisis was a crisis of the two former people’s parties, i.e. the CDU/CSU and SPD. Even then, that was not entirely correct, because it is the green energy transition that has contributed significantly to the calamities in which we find ourselves. But in the end, who governs matters, and over the past 16 years that hasn’t been the Greens.
Since the beginning of the week before last, the crisis has been a green crisis. Everything that may come this winter will now be attributed to them: the deaths of companies that will follow the doubling of the price of electricity; the blackouts when the grids collapse because there are no longer enough reliable power plants.
I thought the Greens were smart, at least strategically. I trusted them to provide the next chancellor. For a short time it looked as if the project could succeed in conquering the middle of society.
Refusing to do whatever it takes to avert the meltdown is therefore a mistake whose impact cannot be overestimated. He is likely to ruin all the trust that the party has earned in recent months.
Now save articles for later in “Pocket”.
We are at the beginning of the storm. You can see the lightning. There isn’t a day that the newspapers don’t read about companies that have no idea how to shoulder the electricity bills. The worst hit are companies that wanted to do everything right and have opted for a modern gas turbine. Anyone who can still burn oil or coal now has at least one alternative.
It also affects sectors that are not immediately apparent. At a garden party on Saturday, I bumped into a doctor who had started a radiological practice in Munich three years ago. His billing office wrote to him last week to prepare himself for an additional payment of 1.2 million euros for the electricity costs. Large radiological devices are power guzzlers that cannot simply be switched off overnight. The magnets that are needed for image acquisition cannot tolerate this.
“Let’s see how long we last,” said the radiologist. I found him amazingly composed. I would not be able to sleep if I were offered a bonus of 1.2 million euros. But when we got to the subject of the Economics Minister’s decision to shut down the nuclear power plants, the equanimity was over. One could see how incomprehension and anger gained the upper hand in the man.
My radiologist isn’t the only one wondering why we aren’t doing everything we can to minimize the damage to the country. It’s been two weeks since Robert Habeck presented his plan to transfer German nuclear power to the hidden reserve.
To this day nobody knows how to do it. A nuclear power plant is like my radiologist friend’s computer tomograph: some plants don’t have an on/off switch. Habeck has replied to his critics that those who said his plan was not working did not understand him. Unfortunately, he didn’t say exactly what he had in mind.
There are a few immutable laws in politics. A scandal that takes more than one sentence is not a scandal. That’s why Annalena Baerbock’s cheat book was a big topic in the election campaign and not Olaf Scholz’s cum-ex past, although the latter is much more important than the former. Likewise, an explanation that takes me more than a minute is useless as an explanation.
Nobody knew that better than the Greens. They invented chlorinated chicken and genetically modified maize to protect Germany from foreign goods. When their opponents started to explain the benefits of trade deals with distant countries, they just laughed.
And now they are looking for their salvation in the merit order, i.e. the order of power plants in pricing? Good luck. At the weekend I tried to explain how the price is calculated on the electricity market.
I could see my interlocutor’s gaze go blank. At Greenpeace, they already knew why they always put the dolphin in the shop window and never the undersea giant spider, which just as deserved to stay alive.
Is the nuclear power plant a symbol? Of course it is. When it comes to power generation, nuclear energy only accounts for six percent. But that’s how it is in times of war: sometimes it’s about symbols. This is especially true when people are up to their necks in water.
Holding the letter with the new down payment in your hands, it’s good to know that the government is doing everything it can to get the situation under control. And doesn’t say: “Sorry, it’s bad that you’re supposed to pay five times as much now. We also have 300 euros for you. But when it comes to generating electricity, we unfortunately have to take the green soul into consideration.”
The energy transition is like socialism. The idea is never bad, only the execution. Of course, the goal of phasing out coal after nuclear power is maintained. Unfortunately, it is precisely this fixation on renewables that has made us dependent on Russian gas.
The Greens have always warned against Putin, which distinguishes them favorably from other parties. However, the green energy transition then made things much worse, because after the end of coal and nuclear power only gas remained as a reliable energy source.
The coalition agreement announced the construction of further gas-fired power plants. “Natural gas is indispensable for a transitional period,” it says in a rare bow to reality. It would be interesting to know if the coalition intends to stick to this or if it is counting on other sources of energy appearing out of nowhere.
Perhaps one simply dispenses with the so-called base load, i.e. energy suppliers that are independent of the whims of the weather. That would be appropriate in a world where will and imagination count and not the mean laws of physics.
You think this is a joke? I remember a tweet in which the Federal Environment Ministry declared before the gas crisis: “Base load will no longer exist in the classic sense.” Instead of base load, a system of renewables, storage and intelligent grids was used. The Ministry of the Environment has always been more advanced than in normal politics. Now only reality has to follow.
At the beginning of the week, the opinion research institute Forsa asked Germans about the lifetime of the nuclear power plants. 67 percent are in favor of the three reactors still in operation being used to generate electricity by 2024.
Even among Green voters there is a change of mood. At 41 percent, the part of those who advocate continued operation is not so far behind the part that is in favor of shutdown or reserve.
If I were to hate the Greens, I would wish that the party leadership stuck to their exit decision for as long as possible. At the latest when the lights go out in January during the dark doldrums because the sun and wind cannot keep up with the electricity consumption, the ambitions for higher things are done for now.
If the Tesla owner can no longer move her car because the charging station is on strike, then the green party is back where it came from: no longer a lifestyle choice for the upper middle class, but an offer to the truly convinced, the let their conviction cost something. That’s still enough for the Bundestag. However, moving into the Chancellery will be difficult.
• Read all of Jan Fleischhauer’s columns here.
The readers love him or hate him, Jan Fleischhauer is indifferent to the least. You only have to look at the comments on his columns to get an idea of how much people are moved by what he writes. He was at SPIEGEL for 30 years, and at the beginning of August 2019 he switched to FOCUS as a columnist.
Fleischhauer himself sees his task as giving voice to a world view that he believes is underrepresented in the German media. So when in doubt, against the herd instinct, commonplaces and thought templates. His texts are always amusing – perhaps it is this fact that provokes his opponents the most.
You can write to our author: By email to email@example.com or on Twitter @janfleischhauer.