The three German government parties, with great ideological differences, continued to talk about “growing closer” after their coalition took office. But now the first fission fungus has been shot out of the ground. Will the government, which sees itself as revolutionary in terms of sustainability, embrace natural gas as a sustainable energy source?
reason for the discussion is the European Commissions proposal to include gas and atomic energy on the list of green energy under conditions. That list is intended for investors who want to invest their money in a sustainable way, and should lead to more investments in power plants.
So it is initially about money: for the measures that Germany also has to take to emit less CO2, it doesnt matter what you call green and what doesnt matter. At the same time, political interests that play along are great.
The country will need new natural gas plants in the coming period, there is no doubt about that. This is because the energy generation is being phased out from other sources, while the demand for power is actually increasing. In this sense, Germany has put itself in a difficult position.
For example, in an effort to become climate-neutral on time, the current government has decided to close all coal plants if possible as early as 2030 instead of in 2038, and the generation of nuclear power plants has been phased out for 20 years.
The nuclear reactors would be too dangerous, and the thousands of years of storage required for the radioactive waste would not be sustainable. The government is holding on to stop nuclear power for the time being, the last three reactors are closing this year.
And so the Germans have to get their energy from elsewhere. The government recently agreed to have more plants built that generate electricity by burning gas. It must be modern plants, which first work temporarily on natural gas and then switch to more environmentally friendly hydrogen gas. That may still take a while.
The fact that the European Commission wants to add natural gas to the list of green energy sources was a wish from the previous German government. But the current coalition also includes the Greens. Although they have contributed to the construction of the temporary natural gas plants, this does not mean that they agree that the European Commission wants to label fossil fuel as green energy.
The fact that the Greens rule with the liberal FDP and Social Democratic SDP, which are sometimes far from them in terms of content, has defended the party against the supporters arguing that it is an opportunity to enforce more sustainability. If they dont do any weather right now, it will be bad for some of those supporters. Environmental organisations have already responded critically to the European Commissions proposal and call it greenwashing.
“Doubtful”, Minister of Environment Steffi Lemke of the Greens calls the proposal. “As far as Im concerned, it wasnt necessary,” she says in an interview with TV channel Phoenix. “Because we know that in the long run, we also have to go without or with little natural gas.”
But not everyone in the government thinks about it that way. The SPD remains mostly silent, and FDP chairman and finance minister Lindner informs Süddeutsche Zeitung that he also sees the benefits of the proposal.
By seeing the modern gas plants as sustainable under conditions, Germany can more easily find investors who want to put billions in the construction of the factories in the coming period. Lindner: “I am grateful that the arguments seem to have been adopted by the Commission.”
Critics do, however, fear that this will cause investors less attention to other sustainable technologies that require money in the coming period, and that the appeal of the European green hallmark for investors will decrease.
Germany, like the other Member States, has until 12 January to respond to the proposal of the European Commission. Then it will be clear whether the government is not only speaking out against sustainable atomic energy, but whether the Greens have also committed enough to make a German request for natural gas to be removed from the list.