German economy minister reveals extent of gas crisis
The natural gas shortage is hitting Germany harder than the 1973 oil shock, Economy Minister Robert Habeck says
Germany is facing a “more significant” crisis than during the world’s first oil shock in 1973, according to Economy Minister Robert Habeck.
In a worst-case scenario, the coming winter could see factories shut down, workers laid off, and people going into debt to pay their heating bills, the minister told Der Spiegel in a lengthy interview published on Friday.
Habeck warned that price hikes for the German population are “not over yet” and energy costs are only “gradually” being raised for consumers. “More people will be affected,” he said, adding: “we are already in a situation in which Germany has never been” due to the “gas crisis.”
If Russian natural gas supplies remain at the current low level, Germany will face severe shortages, the minister warned, saying there will “definitely be a tough winter” and “certain industrial sectors would have to shut down.”
“That would be catastrophic for some industries… we are not talking about two days or weeks but about a long time,” and some regions might lose “entire industrial complexes,” he warned.
Habeck called on the public to save as much energy as possible, saying he personally barely heats his apartment and takes short showers: “I have never showered for five minutes in my life. I take a quick shower.”
If the worst-case scenario materialises, Habeck said “companies will have to cease their production, their workers will be laid off, supply chains will be collapsing; people are going to go into debt to pay their heating bills; people will be getting poorer and frustration will engulf the nation.”
“We are walking into a hard time,” the minister added.
Habeck also blamed Moscow for Germany’s problems, saying President Vladimir Putin wants to “divide” Germany by driving up energy prices. According to Habeck, Russia is gradually reducing gas supply volumes to keep the price up and “stir up insecurity and fear” in Germany.
The minister also believes that Moscow wants to create “the best breeding ground for populism” and “undermine our liberal democracy from within.”
However, when asked about Germany’s oil and gas imports from Gulf monarchies with questionable human rights records, including Qatar, Habeck branded it “selective morality.” He insisted that one has to “differentiate” as “there is no such thing as black and white” when it comes to fossil fuels.
“I think what we are doing is better than remaining in Putin’s clutches,” he said, adding that while no one’s record is spotless, Putin has managed to totally ruin his reputation.
Last week, gas flows through the undersea Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany were cut by as much as 60%. Russian energy giant Gazprom said this was due to technical issues arising from Western sanctions against Moscow.
According to Gazprom, German equipment supplier Siemens Energy failed to return gas pumping units to a compressor station on time. The repaired turbines for Nord Stream are currently stuck at a maintenance facility in Canada, due to Ottawa’s sanctions on Russia.
On Thursday, the Kremlin also hit back at the accusations coming from Germany and other Western nations. Russia has earned a reputation as a reliable energy supplier which “strictly fulfils all its obligations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.