“We are facing a loss of prosperity. We have to compensate for this with targeted measures for targeted groups, but society as a whole cannot be protected from it” – economist Michael Hüther drew a bleak picture in “Hart aber fair” on Monday.
As in the previous week, the program revolved around the consequences of rising energy prices and a possible gas shortage in winter. The guests argued about how citizens can be relieved. For gas consumers, heating will be even more expensive in the future: on the one hand, because gas prices in Europe are rising sharply; on the other hand, since consumers will have to pay a gas surcharge of around 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour from October.
In addition to Hüther, Christian Dürr (FDP), Amira Mohamed Ali (Left), Udo Sieverding (NRW Consumer Center) and Renate Rönnau (pensioner) were guests of Frank Plasberg. For him it was the first show after the announcement that he would stop presenting "Hart aber fair" in November.
"A sweater is not a problem, but I don't want to sit in my own living room and wear two sweaters and a cardigan," said pensioner Renate Rönnau (73) on the ARD program. She lives in a 65 square meter rented apartment, lives on a widow's pension of 1,200 euros per month and thus represents one of the groups that is particularly struggling with the high energy prices: pensioners.
"I have to put money aside because the big bill doesn't stop at me either," she said. She had to consider whether she could still afford to go to the theater or meet up with friends in the café. They also go shopping in a more targeted and economical way.
But how should people like Renate Rönnau be relieved? The traffic light coalition is currently discussing this. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has announced a third relief package. It is still unclear who exactly will be relieved and at what monthly income the government draws the line.
Christian Dürr, chairman of the FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag, said: "What we can do for pensioners who are having a hard time right now is that we add housing benefit."
Pensioners would already benefit from the heating subsidy. "In the second step, we have to see that the housing benefit is expanded and that the heating costs are secured there." That should happen by January 1st. Even if some things remain unclear, Dürr became more specific than SPD leader Saskia Esken, who omitted details of the relief package in the last program.
Dürr said that during their current visit to Canada, Chancellor Scholz and Vice-Chancellor Habeck (Greens) would try “to make amends for the messed-up energy transition, the wrong dependency on Russia.” If we had approached the expansion of energy efficiency more consistently, where we now want to save every kilowatt hour, we could have made much more progress.”
As the only representative of a governing party, Christian Dürr had to justify the additional burden on consumers caused by the gas surcharge. He said that by reducing VAT on all gas consumption from 19 to 7 percent, consumers would be relieved more than they would be burdened by the surcharge. Michael Hüther, Director of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research, also said that the levy is "price signals to keep households' incentive to save up."
The left parliamentary group leader Amira Mohamed Ali sharply criticized the statements. The government justified the introduction of the gas surcharge by saying that companies had to be saved from insolvency due to expensive gas imports. In the meantime, however, it is clear that high-earning gas importers could also benefit from the levy. "That means the gas surcharge is levied to secure the profits of the energy companies."
Amira Mohamed Ali put forward the proposal for an excess profits tax, as it already exists in Italy: This is intended to burden companies such as oil companies that are particularly benefiting from the energy crisis and thus generate excess profits.
Christian Dürr was again in need of justification, because while the SPD and the Greens support the proposal, the FDP and Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) oppose it. “Apart from the fact that innovative companies like Biontech or renewable energies would be hit hard, in Italy we see that the tax is passed on to consumers one-to-one. In the end, private households pay for it,” says Dürr.
At the end of the program, Frank Plasberg and his guests looked at possible options for preventing a gas shortage in winter. FDP Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki spoke out last week in favor of opening the Nord Stream 2 pipeline so that more gas flows from Russia to Germany. Left-wing politician Amira Mohamed Ali said in "Hard but fair" that one would have to think about the commissioning of the pipeline in the event of a possible gas shortage: "If the question is really asked: 'Either no gas or gas through Nord Stream 2?', then stop through Nord Stream 2.”
Economist Michael Hüther contradicted this: "Then we would lose solidarity in Europe." The EU's gas emergency plan contains an assurance that the member states will distribute gas if a country can no longer supply its private households and public facilities with gas. In addition, Nord Stream 2 is not an alternative because Putin is deliberately unclear about gas deliveries to the EU: “He wants to organize uncertainty. This is what harms us the most.”