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Former German chancellor Angela Merkel has sought to justify the country’s energy policy that left Europe's biggest economy too dependent on Russian gas, saying she has no regrets and that her policies were informed by the situation at that time.
"You always act in the time in which you find yourself. In this respect, I do not regret decisions at all, rather, I believe that it was right from the perspective of the time," she told reporters in Lisbon when quizzed about her government's approach to Russia.
Cheap Russian gas had allowed Germany to push ahead with phasing out nuclear and coal, Reuters quoted the former chancellor as saying.
Europe’s largest economy is in dire straits after effectively boxing itself into a corner with its energy policies. For decades, successive governments in Berlin have pursued a policy of maximizing the country’s dependence on Russian oil and gas, and almost completely ditched nuclear energy with the final two functional reactors set to be turned off in 2022. As a result, Germany has become heavily reliant on natural gas, with the fuel accounting for 25% of the country’s total primary energy consumption. Although Germany has substantial supplies of natural gas of its own that could be accessed by fracking, Berlin has banned the technology, meaning it has to import 97% of its gas mainly from Russia, Netherlands and Norway.
Merkel’s reasoning does have some merit though.
Germany’s dramatic nuclear phase-out is as much part of the country’s Energiewende (energy transition) as the move towards a low-carbon economy. Not only does natural gas produce half the emissions of dirty coal, but for Germany it has been a very affordable and reliable energy source necessary for many sectors of the economy.
In Germany, 44% of gas was used for heating buildings in 2020, while industrial processes consumed 28%. Gas is the best and cheapest feedstock for the manufacture of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, of which Germany is a critical supplier. Gas is also used in refining, the production of chemicals, and many other types of manufacturing. All these are difficult--if not impossible--to completely replace with green energy anytime soon.
By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com
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Alex Kimani is a veteran finance writer, investor, engineer and researcher for Safehaven.com.