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Column: Energy Policy - We need to stop listening to these people


Christian Lindner currently sounds like the spokesman for an automotive industry association. He is a symptom of a huge problem in German politics: people continue to listen to yesterday's people too often.

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Finance Minister Lindner


Florian Gaertner/Photothek/Getty Images

In this time of constant dramatic upheavals, it is unavoidable to change one's view of many things just as dramatically.

For example, looking at the political decisions that got us into the situation we are in right now.

And looking at the people who brought us these decisions.

Unfortunately, it has to be said so harshly that German society allowed itself to be loaded on board for many years.

The situation is as follows: Germany will probably not be able to fill up its gas storage tanks sufficiently this year because it has got involved with a murderous, manipulative and constantly lying regime.

And, as Economics Minister Robert Habeck put it this week, "because we weren't good enough in Germany in recent years."

"The omissions of the last decade" must now be made up for in a hurry.

The destruction of future jobs

“The failings of the last decade” still sounds pretty abstract, so I’ll spell out what Habeck actually means: We let ourselves be led in the wrong direction politically by people who made a lot of money with this wrong direction.

From the lobby groups of the coal, oil and gas industries, from the lobby groups of certain industries, above all the automotive industry.

But the biggest and worst omissions are:

  • In 2011, for example, more than 156,000 people worked in the solar industry in Germany.

    Ten years later, in 2021, it was almost 100,000 fewer.

  • In the wind energy industry, job destruction only began later, namely in 2016. At that time, around 167,000 people worked in the industry, onshore and offshore together.

    According to preliminary data from the Institute for Economic Research (DIW), in 2021 there were around 37,000 fewer.

Regulated broken future, subsidized past

Overall, the history of jobs in the field of renewable energies in this country is a story of failure after a promising beginning.

Future jobs were broken down, past jobs were protected from any meaningful regulation and diligently subsidized.

It has long been clear that all national economies must decarbonise, and as quickly as possible.

In 2000, when the Renewable Energy Sources Act was passed, there were almost 105,000 jobs in all renewable energy sectors in Germany - including hydropower, geothermal energy and biomass.

By 2011, that number nearly quadrupled to over 415,000.

Things went downhill with black and yellow

From then on things went downhill, which has a lot to do with the activities of the FDP Economics Ministers Rainer Brüderle and Philipp Rösler.

Rösler, in particular, often and happily spoke of the fact that he wanted to "promote" the expansion of wind energy.

The opposite happened.

And the domestic solar industry, which had been booming until then, was almost completely wiped out, not least due to a cut in funding implemented by Rösler and Norbert Röttgen (CDU).

Today we could make good use of the capacities that were destroyed back then.

To put this in context: In 2011, almost 23,000 people worked in lignite mining in Germany, in 2021 it was just under 18,000.

More than 70,000 jobs disappeared in the renewable energy sector in the same period (it was even more than 100,000 at one point, but the sector has recovered slightly since 2019).

The true legacy of the Merkel era

So while a small number of jobs in the past were protected in favor of the revenue models of RWE, Leag and Co., which cause billions in damage every year, tens of thousands of future jobs that could have freed us from our dependence on oil, coal and gas were erased at the same time.

That is the true legacy of the Merkel era, bitter as it sounds.

How good we would be if the growth of renewables had not been choked off in 2011, but had been further promoted!

Then there would probably not be the massive shortage of qualified craftsmen in the field of photovoltaics today, to name just one example.

In retrospect, it is actually amazing that such an absurd, obviously unrealistic policy was possible in Germany for so long.

But you can explain it.

The links between politics and the industries that live directly or indirectly from the production of CO₂ from fossil fuels are extensive.

You knew each other, you appreciated each other, you listened to each other, you always told each other the same excuses.

And turned a blind eye to the approaching climate catastrophe and dependence on autocrats.

The remarkable career of Hildegard M.

The current spokeswoman for the automotive industry association VDA, for example, is called Hildegard Müller.

She was a member of the Bundestag for the CDU and Minister of State in the Chancellery and was considered a close confidant of Angela Merkel.

Then Müller switched seamlessly to the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), and from there seamlessly to the board of BDEW member RWE.

Today, she appears above all by lamenting the inevitable and yet too late abolition of the internal combustion engine on behalf of the VDA automobile association, calling it a "mistake".

The crazy thing is that almost all German car manufacturers want to get out of the combustion engine anyway, Audi as early as 2026, VW in Europe by 2035 at the latest. Mercedes even expressly “welcomed” the vote by the EU Parliament to phase out combustion engines in 2035.

But the VDA also represents many suppliers specializing in combustion engine components.

So past jobs.

She is just one of many

Merkel's confidante Müller has been a flexible lobbyist for the continuation of burning stuff in Germany for 14 years (even though the BDEW now includes various providers of renewable energies).

When Müller switched to the VDA, this was also seen here in SPIEGEL as a result of her good contacts in Berlin.

Her predecessor had to leave after just one and a half years due to “deficits in political support”.

His long-time predecessor, in turn, was Matthias Wissmann, who in turn had seamlessly moved from his position as a CDU member of the Bundestag to the VDA office.

Wissmann and Müller are just two examples from a remarkably long list of the revolving door between the car industry and "people's parties".

There are many more examples of ties between the Union and fossil fuel fans (read some here).

The influence of the coal and car industries on Peter Altmaier is almost legendary.

Altmaier's ministry even kept a report under wraps that makes German lignite look even worse.

Lindner and Clement united for the coal

However, the interdependencies are not limited to the Union, and there is no need to use the extreme example of Gerhard Schröder.

For example, the former SPD Prime Minister Wolfgang Clement, who died in 2020, went to RWE after his quarrel with his party.

He appeared in the 2012 election campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia alongside Christian Lindner (FDP).

Together, the two promoted coal-fired power plants and railed against the "grotesque subsidies" for renewable energies.


Christian Stocker

We are the experiment

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That's ten years ago.

This is the decade that Robert Habeck means.

But many of the people who clamored for steps in the wrong direction back then are still there.

And they still claim they know where to go.

One of them is now finance minister.

Stuck on the old stories

Christian Lindner remains true to himself and is currently reflecting the positions of the VDA one-to-one.

Again and again he demands that the end for new combustion engines from 2035 decided by the EU Parliament should not come under any circumstances - no matter what German car manufacturers really want.

Lindner loves the combustion engine even more than VW, Audi and Daimler.

There are many more people in Berlin who are stuck on the old stories, but Lindner is currently the most powerful of them.

In my opinion, the fact that Germany's current economic and energy policy situation, which is doubly threatening, can be traced back to specific political action by specific culprits, has by no means been adequately addressed.

The same goes for the fact that the lobbyists, whose misguided advice politicians have listened to for years, continue to be treated as serious interlocutors.

The best for some industries is the worst for the rest

It is not forbidden for industry groups and other lobbyists to try to do the best for their dying industries or those facing major upheaval.

You represent your particular interests.

This "best" is currently in many cases the worst for the German economy as a whole and of course for planet Earth.

For decades, in order to achieve their very specific goals, representatives of many industries have lied, manipulated, distorted, flattered and lured with lucrative jobs for politicians.

The completely distorted picture of jobs in the energy sectors that still prevails in this country is an excellent example, and the handling of the diesel scandal is a second.

We were loaded for many, many years.

It should be clear to everyone by now.

We – but above all politicians – must finally stop listening to these people.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-06-26

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