V sosednji kolumni pišem o tem, kam je izginila nemška zdrava pamet, ko se je odločila, da raje aktivira za deset jedrskih elektrarn energije s kurjenjem premoga v sicer neaktivnih termoelektrarnah, kot da ohrani obstoječe tri jedrske elektrarne in reaktivira že zaprte. Vsi se trudimo najti racionalno razlago za to. No, nemški minister za gospodarstvo Robert Habeck v intervjuju v Der Spieglu pravi, da je bolje kuriti premog, ker preostale tri jedrske elektrarne naj ne bi bile varnostno pregledane, ker ne ve, če bi bilo mogoče dobiti dovolj jedrskega goriva in predvsem zato, ker termoelektrarne na premog ob električni energiji proizvajajo tudi toploto za ogrevanje. Prva dva “argumenta” so jedrski strokovnjaki sicer že zanikali in pravijo, da ima Nemčija dovolj časa, da pripravi obstoječe tri jedrske elektrarne za novo sezono in reaktivira tri že zaprte. Zadnji argument pa se tudi zdi zelo privlečen za lase: kako so Nemci proizvajali toploto, ko so (sedaj reaktivirane) termoelektrarne na premog bile neaktivne?
Sicer pa je intervju z ministrom Habeckom zanimiv še iz treh razlogov. Prvič, ker Habeck priznava, da če Putin zapre plinsko pipico, se cele panoge nemškega gospodarstva povsem zaustavijo in bo konec tržnega gospodarstva, nezaposlenost bo poletela v nebo, medtem ko bodo ljudje na hladnem. Drugič, da nemška vlada nima nobenega resnega načrta, kako se soočiti z zaustavitvijo dobav plina. Govori le o tem, da naj bi ljudje več varčevali z energijo, se krajši čas tuširali, zmanjšali temperaturo gretja in oblekli puloverje, medtem ko naj bi bilo zmanjšanje hitrosti na avtocestah politično nesprejemljivo. In seveda ne pove, koliko odstotkov zmanjšanja porabe plina bi ti varčevalni ukrepi prebivalstva prinesli (gospodinjstva namreč porabijo le dobrih 15% porabe plina). In tretjič, za razliko od Rusije Habeck in nemška vlada nimata težav povečati dobav plina iz držav z diktatorskim in neliberalnim režimom, kot sta Saudska Arabija in Katar.
Zeleni politiki so se mi vedno zdeli neprizemljeni in licemerni. Tale intervju s Habeckom moje prepričanje samo še utrjuje. S tem, da bi k obema oznakama dodal še eno – nekompetentnost.
DER SPIEGEL: Regarding next winter, you said: If the gas is shut off, we are “in the open.” It sounds rather ominous. What did you mean exactly?
Habeck: We are already in a place where Germany has never been before. If the Russian natural gas deliveries remain as low as they are now, we are facing gas shortages. We are procuring replacements, we are rapidly expanding our LNG infrastructure. And: gas consumption must be reduced wherever possible. Otherwise, things will get difficult.
DER SPIEGEL: What happens if it’s not enough?
Habeck: Then we will have to make difficult societal decisions.
DER SPIEGEL: Such as?
Habeck: If there isn’t enough gas, then certain industrial areas that require natural gas will have to be shut down. As economy minister, it is impossible to make a good decision on such a question – the least-bad decision is the best-case scenario. All market-economy processes would then be suspended. For some industries, it would be catastrophic. We aren’t talking about a couple of days or weeks, but about an extended period. We are talking about people who would lose their jobs, regions that would lose entire industrial complexes.
DER SPIEGEL: It has been said that consumers, at least, will be protected and that industry will go to the dogs. Is that correct?
Habeck: Our goal is that nobody goes to the dogs. To answer your question: That is a European regulation that we implemented in national law several years ago. That regulation was designed for short-term gas stoppages, not for longer-term ones. We are, however, bound by that regulation.
DER SPIEGEL: The idea of reducing the level of heating available to renters is one that the head of the Federal Network Agency, which your ministry oversees, recently aired. Do people in Germany have to get used to the idea that they will have to wear thicker sweaters and socks this winter?
Habeck: Socks and sweaters in the winter are always a good idea. And even if it sounds banal: It is sensible to perform a hydraulic balancing of the heating system now in summer so that the heat is better distributed – doing so saves around 15 percent in energy and costs. And turning the heat down by 1 degree in winter cuts another 6 percent. With 41 million households in the country, this small step amounts to a lot. And we have seen how much solidarity people can show. I was told of a street where residents want every second streetlamp to be turned off at night. Older people live there, who actually have greater security needs, but they still say: We don’t need it.
DER SPIEGEL: Do you understand those who say: I’m not prepared to make cuts just because the federal government spent decades following the wrong energy strategy?
Habeck: It is true that the energy policies of the last decades pushed us into a reliance on Russia and placed hurdles in the path of renewable energy expansion. That is the source of the whole mess. But it doesn’t help to say: The others are at fault, so I’m not going to do the right thing. Translate it to your private life: A member of the family doesn’t clean up, so I’m not going to clean up. The apartment would get extremely messy in a very short amount of time. What will become of this country if the role models are always bad ones?
DER SPIEGEL: You intend to cut the output of gas-fired power plants and restart coal-fired power plants, despite their higher CO2 emissions. You are planning on buying natural gas from the dictatorship of Qatar. How painful do you find all of these difficult compromises?
Habeck: When compared to the natural gas dependency that we have on Russia, I didn’t find the trip to Qatar particularly painful. We have always bought gas and oil from countries that have a different values system than we do. Now, there is this selective morality that I find odd: Don’t do business with Qatar! But we don’t have a problem with oil from Saudi Arabia? Conversely, we profited immensely from the Qataris when they helped us extract our people from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.
DER SPIEGEL: Does that mean we have to ignore the human rights violations and the conditions faced by the workers preparing for the World Cup?
Habeck: Not ignoring something also means taking a closer look. Qatar has made progress. It is, for example, the only Arab country that has introduced a minimum wage. There is no black-and-white when it comes to fossil fuels, only gray. What we are doing, though, is far better than remaining in Putin’s clutches. He wants to force us to accept his murderous ways because we can be blackmailed with energy. There are no white hats at the moment, but there is a black hat. And Putin is wearing it.
DER SPIEGEL: And how can you whitewash the reintroduction of the coal-fired power plants?
Habeck: Whitewash? If you are referring to Qatar, we should have the courage to consider the nuances of reality, even if stereotypes are more comfortable. As for coal: That is far more painful for me. Even depressing. I wish I never had to make this decision. Now, we have to shift to renewable energies even more rapidly. And even that can’t be done without compromises. For wind turbines and solar panels, we need rare earths, the mining of which damages the environment. As a prosperous country, our growth, our energy consumption and our lifestyles create problems, including for the environment and for people who live elsewhere.
DER SPIEGEL: Why not keep the three remaining nuclear power plants online for longer? They are scheduled to be mothballed at the end of the year. Yet they emit far less CO2.
Habeck: If it would really make a contribution to solving the gas crisis and were possible, I wouldn’t hesitate. But it doesn’t help and could only be done with compromises on safety – for a high-risk technology. But one thing after the other: If we wanted to extend their lifespans, we would have to initially reduce their output, starting now. Because the old fuel rods will only last until the end of the year. We would have to extend them, but that would mean we couldn’t use the power this summer. And that gap would have to be filled through coal and gas. At a time when we need the gas to fill our storage tanks.
DER SPIEGEL: Why not buy new fuel rods?
Habeck: The operators told us that doing so takes a year. But even if it could be accelerated, nuclear power plants have to undergo regular safety checks. They are extremely extensive examinations, with good reason. The power plant has to be taken offline and every single nut and bolt is examined. These checks haven’t been done for three years, even though they are required by law, because the operators said: They’re going offline at the end of the year, anyway.
DER SPIEGEL: Do we not have to accept such compromises, give the situation we are faced with?
Habeck: For a small contribution, we would then have the poorest nuclear safety in our history. And that in a situation where we are experiencing hacker attacks on our energy infrastructure. Plus, the reactors are extremely sensitive. In France, half of their reactors aren’t currently online due to problems with corrosion. And European energy prices have risen as a result of that, as well. Most important, though, our gas-fired power plants deliver district heating in addition to electricity. Nuclear power plants do not, which is why they are no good as a substitute. Only coal-fired power plants can do so, because they can be operated more flexibly than nuclear plants.
Vir: Der Spiegel