Following the harsh criticism from the opposition and from within the coalition, German Minister of Economy Robert Habeck (Green party) announced that the recently introduced gas levy will be reworked to ensure that financially stable companies won’t benefit from the extra payments made by ordinary clients.
The head of the social-democratic SPD, Lars Klingbeil, previously accused Habeck of “technical errors” during the development of the gas levy. The original concept was meant to alleviate the burden on companies needing to buy expensive gas at prices that could have ruined them. Well intended as it was, no provision was given to prevent solvent companies that could well afford the gas—and continue to make billions in profit—from applying for financial support too. Meanwhile, the price for this levy is to be paid by all gas customers in Germany, which poses enormous stress on the finances of German households. Klingbeil referred to this as “indecent free riding” by large companies.
According to reports, some of the affected companies, such as the struggling energy company Uniper, contributed to formulating the first version of the gas levy. With almost all parties except for The Greens criticizing the levy, Habeck reacted and announced a rework of the levy that aims to prevent such freeloading. “We’ll have to work hard on that problem,” said Habeck, “and that’s what we will do now. We will solve this problem.”
In defense of the rushed levy, Habeck referred to the necessity of filling up gas reserves to provide energy security for the winter. But with gas depots at an 82% fill level, Germany is ahead of schedule to achieve its proclaimed goal of 85% by October 1st. Nevertheless, Habeck stressed that this was only possible due to the saving policies during the summer. Energy conservation efforts exercised over the past few months are also the reason why the economist Veronika Grimm rejected the plans of the Bavarian Minister of Finance Albert Füracker to reduce energy taxes. Füracker’s intention is to alleviate the burden on households, but, according to Grimm, this would eliminate the motivation to reduce energy consumption.
Meanwhile, the Tagesspiegel criticized the fact that once again hastily developed laws and measures are opening doors for some to profit on the backs of others. Since the beginning of Corona, “emergency measures” have become the new normal, which not only leads to mistakes, but also to a lack of accountability.