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Controversy over energy: natural gas in short supply 2022

The crisis is dragging on, natural gas in short supply and the Federal Government searches desperate for new suppliers.

It doesn’t work without it, at least not yet. But apart from a possible gas triage and the fear of cold living rooms, something else is whipping up the mood.

A month-long dispute is to be decided this Wednesday:

Can investments in natural gas and nuclear projects be considered green despite their controversial climate and environmental balance?

For the European Commission, the answer is a clear “yes” – because that’s where the explosive proposal comes from.

What the Commission is supposed to be the final touch on its sustainable financial compass, the so-called “EU taxonomy”, is for environmental organizations, banks and also some EU governments are clearly green-washing. financial market expert Magdalena Senn explains why the European Parliament could still wave the initiative through and what Russian gas companies have to do with it.

The energy transition has long been decided, yes Among other things, the EU Commission is planning a green seal of approval for investments in natural gas. “natural gas in short supply”

To what extent does that make sense? Magdalena Senn: Not at all. It is completely absurd to claim that energy sources such as natural gas and nuclear power are sustainable when they are not.

On the contrary: if a stock or a fund says green on it, it must also be green inside. Otherwise the labeling as a whole will not be credible and will mislead investors.

However, the federal government also supports the sustainability label for natural gas in short supply investments. According to a recent poll, more than a third of the German population is also behind it. How do you explain that?

The problem is that two different debates are getting mixed up: on the one hand, it’s about guaranteeing the power supply for the winter. To do this, the government must take drastic and sometimes unpopular measures. But just because we’ve realized how dependent we are on natural gas in short supply right now, we shouldn’t declare it sustainable. Only energy sources that are already climate-friendly and green are allowed to be included in the taxonomy. From our point of view, gas fails just as much as nuclear power.

Gas is considered to be cleaner compared to coal.,Yes, but that’s what the logic of the taxonomy does not. That is why the EU expert group had set such strict criteria in its original proposal that today’s gas-fired power plants could not be considered sustainable. However, the Commission has deviated from this science-based proposal.

The EU Commission is generally less strict about natural gas in short supply : gas is considered a temporary bridge fuel that paves the way for the energy transition. The classification as sustainable should only apply in the meantime. Why does that seem too generous to you?

The need for investment in renewables is huge. However, if more financial resources are instead channeled into technologies such as natural gas, which must be phased out in the medium term, this leads to a dead end. Therefore, the EU taxonomy must not be watered down with transitional technologies such as natural gas. Yes, we still need it temporarily, but we can’t paint it green because of that. Not to mention nuclear power.

Because of the nuclear waste problem?

Exactly. Nuclear power actually cannot meet the taxonomy criterion because of the hazardous waste. Because even CO2-saving investments must not violate any of the other environmental goals. Various reports come to this conclusion, even if the EU Commission sees it differently.

Moreover, including nuclear power in the green taxonomy would waste public funds. There is simply no private sector investment in nuclear power because it makes no business sense. The risks are too great, nobody would insure such projects, many nuclear power plants are worth millions.

But France is very interested in rehabilitating the dilapidated reactors with public money.,How can it be that gas and nuclear power have made it this far as candidates for the green financial taxonomy?

The gas industry in particular has been trying for years to anchor the idea of ​​a supposedly greener bridging technology in Brussels. And the influence of Russian lobbyists on the draft was just recently the subject of a study.

It also shows here that the taxonomy has something to do with Europe’s dependence on Russia.,Where Can you fix that?

The Commission’s draft taxonomy predates the Russian attack on Ukraine and you can see it. Germany is building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals under high pressure to break away from Russia’s energy imports. But investments in such LNG terminals would not get a green stamp from the EU – they would not meet the sustainability criteria that the draft for dictates gas projects. New gas power plants that burn Russian gas, yes natural gas in short supply.

Controversy over energy: natural gas in short supply
natural gas in short supply

The vote in the European Parliament is probably the last chance to prevent this. How likely do you think it is that the parliamentarians will intervene?

A few weeks ago, both the environment and the finance committee of the parliament already clearly rejected the labeling of gas and nuclear. That has provided a certain relief, because many had not expected it. The actual decision is made by the plenum. And it will probably be very, very close.,Should nuclear and gas projects make it into the taxonomy, some EU countries want to sue.

What could the Commission face?

Austria and Luxembourg have announced that they intend to challenge the nuclear and gas legislation in court. In a joint petition with many civil society organizations, we call on the federal government to join the lawsuit.

There are already legal opinions for a lawsuit, which prove, among other things, that the Commission cannot wave through highly political issues such as the content of the taxonomy as easily as she is trying to do that with this technical legal act. There are also arguments that gnaw at the green classification of nuclear power and gas itself. But a lawsuit is the very last resort.,Why?

It would be better for everyone involved if there was already a rejection in Parliament. This would clear things up in a timely manner. The legal process, on the other hand, can be lengthy. The clear standards of the taxonomy, which are urgently needed on the financial markets to curb greenwashing, could be dragged out by a procedure for years. From my point of view, that would be a major setback.

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