Before the coalition committee on Sunday, the mood in the traffic light coalition seems tense. From the controversial plans to ban oil and gas heating, to the question of expanding the motorway to the upcoming budget for 2024 - in view of the numerous controversial issues, the question arises: How divided is the government? And how big is the loss of trust that Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) recently publicly complained about?
Among other things, the Green party leader Ricarda Lang and the Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) discussed these topics on Thursday evening under the heading "Heating, electricity, traffic light dispute" at "Maybrit Illner". Also invited were the "Spiegel" journalist Gerald Traufetter, the editor-in-chief of the business magazine "Finanztip", Hermann-Josef Tenhagen, and the economist and member of the Advisory Council, Veronika Grimm.
CDU Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer set the tone of the debate right at the beginning when he answered Illner's question as to whether the traffic light should now make up for the neglected climate policy of the grand coalition: "What the Greens can't do is really free themselves from theirs now ideological beliefs – or simply seeing reality as it is.”
While Merkel was still trying to compensate for the phase-out of lignite with CO₂-saving gas pipelines, the traffic light now wants to replace nuclear power with LNG gas - although that emits just as much CO₂. "That's not climate policy," Kretschmer criticized. "That's kidding the younger generation, for whom climate protection is really important."
Green leader Ricarda Lang did not accept that: "We have to stick to reality," she appealed. "Why do we have so damn much catching up to do now? Because the grand coalition has not put any focus on getting started with renewable energies.” Lang also questioned Kretschmer’s commitment to climate protection: “If you say you like being part of the solution – I can see that when I look at the wind expansion in Saxony , to be honest still damn little.”
"Now I would ask you to come to terms with reality," Kretschmer replied. “You can't get out of nuclear energy knowing that for the next few years that will only be possible with more CO₂ emissions. You can't get rid of all gas heating systems overnight." It was wrong to rush such decisions, which would lead the country to "deindustrialization," Kretschmer continued.
Kretschmer described the draft law of the Federal Ministry of Economics for the planned ban on the installation of pure gas or oil heating systems as a "planned economy". "I experienced that for forty years and it will not work." It was "bitter" that the government did not listen to the 16 prime ministers who spoke out against the proposal.
"It is completely irresponsible in this debate to describe a project as a planned economy, especially with history in this country," contradicted Habeck's party friend Ricarda Lang. There are certainly experts who would speak out against the ban, Lang admitted, but: "They don't bang around with any Kulturkampf debates, they talk about what the best solution could be." Lang also recommended that all prime ministers who outraged about Habeck's proposed legislation, "to call Olaf Scholz or Klara Geywitz (both SPD). They made this decision together with us.”
But the economist Veronika Grimm also took a firm stance against the Economics Minister's proposed legislation. She criticized the fact that this excludes all alternatives apart from the heat pump. In addition, the communication drives citizens to buy gas heaters in the short term: "How do we want to achieve the climate goals?" asked Grimm. "We won't be able to do it with this instrument because it will bring us to the brink of a nervous breakdown," says the economist.
Grimm also expressed doubts about the announced aid measures for financial support for low-income households. Ricarda Lang had announced on the show: "For people with a low income, a heat pump shouldn't be more expensive than a new gas heating system." Grimm replied: "You won't be able to keep this promise politically. Someone will have to pay for this – it will be at the expense of future generations.”
The traffic light partners argue about key issues. Especially in fiscal policy. After sharp criticism from Vice-Chancellor Habeck, efforts are being made to calm things down. Does the traffic light split?
The verdict of the business journalist Hermann-Josef Tenhagen was milder: Everyone already receives a 40 percent subsidy for the installation of a heat pump. "If that is then socially cushioned, it can definitely be done," says Tenhagen.
Kretschmer was not convinced of this. He had had a heat pump installed at home for a long time, but it was "so powerful" that you couldn't manage it despite having two incomes. Tenhagen's answer: "I don't know what you did, but that should also be the case in Saxony. Maybe talk to your energy advisor again.”
As the debate progressed, the tone intensified, for example when Kretschmer confirmed that he wanted to repair the destroyed Nord Stream 1 pipeline. "We have this pipeline, which will hopefully be an option in five or ten years after this regime in Russia ends," said Kretschmer. "And we don't want that, although there could be 50 to 60 million cubic meters of gas. That's the opposite of what we learned!” criticized the CDU politician.
The "Spiegel" journalist Gerald Traufetter contradicted Kretschmer's account. "That's just wrong. We have enough gas pipelines, via Ukraine, for example, that we could supply ourselves with gas if we wanted to." Ricarda Lang was also outraged: "Your lesson from last year is it serious to keep Nord Stream 1 open?" , she asked the Prime Minister of Saxony.
She also accused Kretschmer of hypocrisy: being outraged by high prices for fossil fuels, even though he himself had been involved in establishing close ties with Russia in the past, was "hypocritical". "And now you're advocating continued dependence on gas? In this way, you and the Union make yourself a guarantor for unpaid heating costs in the future,” predicted Lang.
At the end of the program, Lang tried to counter the criticism of the government with an optimistic view of the future: "The linchpin is the expansion of renewable energies. And that's - given all the controversy today - a good point that we can hold on to: The expansion of renewable energies is now really being boosted. This is the way forward.”