Germany's Scholz clashes with CDU leader over conservatives’ energy policy legacy
Clean Energy Wire
In an unusually emotional response to criticism over the government’s handling of the energy crisis, German chancellor Olaf Scholz has criticised conservative CDU leader Friedrich Merz for exploiting a political predicament that Merz’s party helped create during its 16 years in power. During a debate in parliament, Merz had said the government coalition had “no compass” in the energy crisis fuelled by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which would cause great damage to Germany’s industrial basis and provoke social unrest. The CDU leader particularly hit out at a decision by the economy and climate ministry to not delay Germany’s nuclear exit in a substantial way. Social Democrat (SPD) Scholz countered that his government had to start from scratch regarding possible energy supply difficulties from Russia when taking over last December, shortly before the start of Russia’s invasion. His coalition with the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) since had done more to diversify the country’s energy supply than any previous CDU-led government. The conservative party headed the German government under chancellor Angela Merkel between 2005 and 2021, a time when Germany agreed its final nuclear exit as well as the phase-out of coal power and saw an up-and-down in renewables expansion, which hit a new low shortly before Scholz’s government took over. “The CDU, [and its Bavarian sister party] CSU is the party that bears all of the responsibility for the phase-out decisions,” the chancellor argued, adding that it never had “the courage to enter into anything new” and “fought against every single wind turbine” planned in the country in the past years and continued to do so until today.
Fossil fuel trade with Russia had been supported eagerly both by Scholz’s SPD and Merkel’s CDU in the past years, with both parties arguing upholding commercial ties with Russia could help rein in the country’s bellicose ambitions. Scholz’s current government had set out to address emissions reduction and the energy transformation as the centrepiece of its energy policy last December but saw its plans undermined by the outbreak of Russia’s war on Ukraine, which quickly expanded into a fossil fuel supply crisis for Europe as a whole and for Germany in particular. Since then, Scholz’s government – while trying to speed up renewables expansion – invested in additional natural gas import infrastructure, re-activated coal plants and reduced pump prices for gasoline to reduce cost pressure on citizens and keep energy supply secure.