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German Economy Minister on the Gas Shortage: “There Is a Black Hat, and Putin Is Wearing It”

  • June 24, 2022

Habeck: We are already in a place where Germany has never been before. Even if the Russian natural gas deliveries remain as low as they are now, we are facing gas shortages. We are procuring replacements, we are rapidly expanding our LNG infrastructure. And: gas consumption must be reduced wherever possible. Otherwise, things will get difficult.

DER SPIEGEL: What happens if it’s not enough?

Habeck: Then we will have to make difficult societal decisions.


Habeck: If there isn’t enough gas, then certain industrial areas that require natural gas will have to be shut down. As economy minister, it is impossible to make a good decision on such a question – the least-bad decision is the best-case scenario. All market-economy processes would then be suspended. For some industries, it would be catastrophic. We aren’t talking about a couple of days or weeks, but about an extended period. We are talking about people who would lose their jobs, regions that would lose entire industrial complexes.

DER SPIEGEL: It has been said that consumers, at least, will be protected and that industry will go to the dogs. Is that correct?

Habeck: Our goal is that nobody goes to the dogs. To answer your question: That is a European regulation that we implemented in national law several years ago. That regulation was designed for short-term gas stoppages, not for longer-term ones. We are, however, bound by that regulation.

DER SPIEGEL: Let’s talk about saving energy in our day-to-day lives: As a private citizen, what are you doing differently now than, say, four months ago?

Habeck: I am adhering to the advice of my ministry. I have drastically reduced the amount of time I spend in the shower, but I am a poor example. As minister, I earn a salary that others can only dream of. Plus, I come home late, get up at 6 a.m. and am out of the house again by 7. With such a schedule, it’s not necessary to heat in winter. For people working from home, retirees with small pensions and families, it is a different story.

DER SPIEGEL: How long does it take you to shower?

Habeck: My counterpart from the Netherlands recently told me proudly that they had launched a campaign intended to cut the average showering time from 10 minutes to five. I had to laugh. I have never showered for five minutes in my life. I shower quickly.

DER SPIEGEL: If we were to use the train for our vacations this summer instead of flying to the Mediterranean, would that be an important contribution to the situation as a whole?

Habeck: Absolutely, even if doing so doesn’t save any natural gas. But I am essentially being forced at the moment to make extremely difficult decisions from a climate policy point of view. It is just a disaster. We are being forced to bring coal-fired power plants – which had essentially already been phased out – back online. But through other savings measures, we can save as much of the CO2 as possible that we are now depressingly burning again. As such, it would certainly help if you were to take the plane a little less often.

DER SPIEGEL: What is your preferred room temperature?

Habeck: In summer, I really don’t like being in air-conditioned rooms, and I heat frugally in winter.

DER SPIEGEL: You are aware, of course, that many people feel patronized by your energy savings campaign.

Habeck: Of course, there has been some criticism, but we are also receiving photos of thawed out freezers and tips for saving more energy – and people are approaching us to ask for posters they can hang up at home. We are inviting people to join the campaign and aren’t saying: If you don’t go along, you are an evil person. We are suggesting ways of saving energy under the shower. But you don’t have to be perfect. Sometimes children need a nice long shower or a wading pool full of warm water. My message is: Go ahead and let your children have fun. We don’t have to completely punish ourselves. But we also can’t act as though everything is just fine.

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