Economy & Politics

Commentary campaign noise at the gas station

Annalena Baerbock stands in front of a wall of moss when visiting the start-up Fond ofdpa

The election hotspot for the gasoline price is as expected as it is transparent, but it shows how tense the nerves are – do the CDU and SPD really want to nail down the Greens with a gasoline price campaign?

Okay with the shamelessly reported additional income, the Ukraine question is logical, with monstrous words such as “climate impact assessment” and also with all questions where it becomes concrete, clear. Wherever the cracks and the rendezvous with reality reveal themselves, which the Greens have been struggling with for days. But to fluff up between 6 and 16 cents CO2 surcharge for gasoline on the route – where the Greens are finally concrete and honest – is pretty short-sighted.

The two governing parties have just rushed to improve their climate protection goals (although there would have been time until 2022) because the Federal Constitutional Court ordered them to do so. In every digital marketplace speech you speak about e-mobility, green hydrogen and the inevitable transformation of the economy towards climate neutrality. And now there is screaming at the first gas pump? It is obvious that the Left Party is reaching for the petrol straw and scourging the Greens for their “unbearable arrogance” – but we must expect more from the Union and the SPD.

“The famous balance between prosperity and climate protection is not decided at the grill”

Horst von Buttlar

Petrol should become more expensive so that we use less petrol. So drive less and train more. I will spare you the rest of the often repeated ecological causal chain. The CO2 price should steer, redirect, dampen, that is the core idea. As a second major instrument, emissions trading is intended to influence decisions made by companies. There is almost a consensus on all of this, regardless of which party you hear ideas about climate protection from. But when Olaf Scholz complains about the “fuel price screw” at 6 cents – the SPD chancellor candidate had also passed the first stage – one wonders what capacities are still available when we argue about the really big throws.

A few days ago I saw an oversized steak being presented to Annalena Baerbock live in a talk show, with the question: Can you still eat it? And if so, do you grill with charcoal or gas? I think it’s so silly. Baerbock stared at the steak for a moment, puzzled, and I had the impression that she had never had such a large piece of meat in front of her. She did well (“Doesn’t fit on my grill”) and had to make it clear that everyone can eat what they want. An emotional question, I dare to say: not the most important question. The famous balance between prosperity and climate protection is not decided at the grill.

One could actually put a lot more question marks behind the compensation systems that the Greens want to create, for example in the form of “energy money”. A new redistribution bureaucracy is being drawn up here; in addition to social justice, there will in future be “climate justice”, a kind of Y-axis to the social X-axis of redistribution.

Achieving the climate goals will hurt

The same applies to the dispute about who should pay for the heating costs – only the tenants? Or landlord and tenant each 50 percent? The CDU is blocking a project that the SPD still wants to pass, with a legal justification – it represents a “breach of the polluter pays principle”. According to the motto: The landlord has to pay even if the tenant turns on the heating with the window open . Sounds cynical, but legally this question is tricky.

Here again, the defenders of the 50:50 rule attempt a rhetorical amalgamation of “tenant and climate protection” (a combination of words used by the German Tenants’ Association). According to the motto: social cold and room temperature will be congruent in the future. Shouldn’t you let it go like this. However, the assumption that tenants will heat a lot more in the future if half of the CO2 surcharge is borne by the landlord is itself a somewhat heated assumption.

What all these debates show: We are far from advocating and implementing decisions that are necessary if we are all serious about these climate goals. That should and will hurt. At least it should be felt. And how to create compensation systems for this without undermining the incentive, not only the Greens have to provide answers: growth despite CO2 reduction, prosperity and jobs despite transformation, all parties have to deliver – without the whole thing leading to another conflict between poor and rich to reduce. (Anyone who receives Hartz IV will get heating costs reimbursed by the state anyway.)

Inconvenient truths

It is the broad middle class, families, commuters, workers and employees with incomes between 2,000 and 5,000 euros net (almost half of German households are in this corridor) who have to make a multitude of complicated and possibly expensive decisions. From buying a car to replacing the heating system and going on a summer vacation.

In other words: You don’t have to write climate pathways on paper by 2050 (or now even 2045) when the first steps of a CO2 price lead to losing your nerve. Even if everything is only motivated by campaign tactics. Wolfgang Schäuble had a nice term for such maneuvers (in a different context): “pitiful”.

I even dare to say that Annalena Baerbock uttered just one more uncomfortable truth with the short-haul flights. Frankfurt to Stuttgart, Munich to Frankfurt, Munich to Nuremberg – “isch over” (another quote from Schäuble).

Such “radical ideas” can also be found in studies that do not come from the Greens, for example in the “Net Zero Report” of the unsuspected International Energy Agency (IEA). It even says that in 2030 the average room temperature in apartments would have to be an average of 19 to 20 degrees if you want to avoid all the tipping points by then. Oh yes, and a global speed limit of 100 km / h – which is likely to be the next debate.

Nothing works without a reduction in CO2

Either, then, you take all these climate protection goals seriously and say openly what it means. The performance at the higher price of petrol is only the opening act for the opening act of what else is waiting for us on stage in terms of spectacle. Or you reject the whole path and goals of climate neutrality and say that somehow there will be ways and means. Which is a form of denial of reality.

One should rather argue about the big levers: investments in buildings and networks, energy supply, maybe even a small nuclear power debate, new technologies and technological advances, in battery and hydrogen technology, in carbon capture and storage (CCS) and so on. All of this is required, they are elementary. However, nothing will work without a reduction in CO2. The contradictions of the Greens and the shock of reality are also a bit of the contradictions of all of us, even if the Greens are not voted for.


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