It is sometimes decided this winter whether Germany will remain an industrial country: the prospects given by CDU parliamentary group leader Jens Spahn on Monday evening in Berlin were drastic. The second edition of the WELT future debate took place there in front of an online audience.
Dagmar Rosenfeld, Editor-in-Chief of WELT AM SONNTAG, conducted the interview. The future and current policies are currently being determined by the crisis, Rosenfeld said, citing Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, Europe's energy shortages, climate change and the aftermath of the pandemic.
“We will have to forgive each other a lot” – Rosenfeld confronted the former Federal Minister of Health with this statement, who chose this sentence a year ago in view of the corona pandemic. In view of the energy crisis, Rosenfeld now asked whether the people of the CDU could forgive. After all, the Union decided to phase out coal and nuclear power - and thus Germany's dependence on Russian gas. In doing so, "the party of Ludwig Erhard, of all people, laid the ax on German prosperity with its political course".
Spahn referred to the "broad consensus" at the time, with which one said goodbye to nuclear energy and coal - and wanted to use gas as a bridging technology for renewables.
For a long time, German prosperity would have benefited from cheap Russian gas: both companies, employees and pensioners. "The years before the pandemic were years of growth," says Spahn.
Long-term consequences of the dependency were overlooked. Germany must learn from this, for example with a view to its trading partner China.
In response to the current energy crisis, the traffic light government has meanwhile put together its third relief package. But Spahn sees a central flaw in the approach: “Before you talk about relief packages, the first and most important answer is: expand offers. In other words, everything that can produce energy in this country should do it. Coal-fired power plants, biogas plants, nuclear power plants.”
When asked how long the latter should be left online, Spahn gave a specific answer: "Until the end of 2024" and added: "And we have to order new fuel elements, otherwise it won't work."
If all energy is brought into the supply, as it is just possible, one should let the prices work. The market is not "broken" in any way. At the same time, private households would have to be relieved in a targeted manner. "These social hardships go far into the middle of society," says Spahn, "someone who has 2,500 euros net, even with a family of four, they are at the limit of what can still be somehow managed." 300 euros energy money for everyone, 1000 euros energy flat rate to households in the lower third of income.
For the industry, Spahn calls for a gas wholesale price set at European level - so that the price of gas falls overall. Sometimes it will be decided this winter to what extent Germany can remain an industrial location.
Because the prices for electricity and heat are a factor for entrepreneurs to relocate their production abroad. Politicians can help the economy with low-threshold loan programs, among other things.
Dagmar Rosenfeld asked where the money for the measures should come from. After all, the state is heavily in debt, not least due to the legacy of the Corona virus and special funds.
Spahn replies that the state does not have a money problem due to the record tax revenue as a result of inflation. However, the traffic light should focus on what is absolutely necessary: buying energy and relieving it in a targeted manner this winter.
Traffic light projects such as citizens' income, on the other hand, should be put on the back burner for the time being. As long as the government does not do everything possible to improve the situation, it should refrain from suspending the debt brake.
By "doing everything" Spahn means bringing all possible capacities from nuclear power, coal-fired power and biogas to the grid. When asked if he thought the government would suspend the debt brake again next year, Spahn concluded: "I can only recommend that the government adhere to the Basic Law."
The WELT Future Debate is a four-part series of events organized by WELT together with the sponsor Initiative Neue Soziale Marktwirtschaft.
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