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Morning Briefing: Energy Policy with Severe Consequences

It can be a bit blumberant in view of the simultaneity of the energy policy decisions: in a few hours at the turn of the year three German nuclear power plants will go offline, namely the reactors in Gundremmingen on the Danube, Grohnde on the Weser and Brokdorf on the Elbe. The remaining three German nuclear power plants are to follow in 2022. A few weeks ago, the traffic light coalition also proclaimed that it would bring forward the phase-out of coal-fired electricity to 2030 if possible. If the expansion of wind and solar systems does not proceed quickly enough by then (and this is what it currently looks like), natural gas would have to fill the supply gap. A raw material that mostly comes to us from Russia and is currently being transformed into a weapon in the new Cold War with Moscow in the crackers of geopolitics.

Anyone who would like to get an idea of ​​what consequences these parallel decisions will have, has to listen to Christian Schabert. “We are losing our entire cash flow and will be in the red from January 1, 2022,” said the managing director of Rudolf Geitz GmbH from Dinkelsbühl to my colleague Jürgen Flauger. At the end of the year, the electricity contract of the company, which is active in plastic injection molding, expires. Because of the drastic rise in wholesale prices, medium-sized companies suddenly have to cope with tripling electricity costs – with an annual consumption of at least one million kilowatt hours. “Germany, as the number one industrial country in Europe, will tear such electricity prices into the abyss,” Schabert is certain.

Many details of the energy and climate policy sound so abstract that they can only be conveyed in a journalistically understandable manner if all brain power reserves are deployed. And my suspicion: Even the officials and members of parliament who formulate and pass such ordinances and laws are not always clear about the practical effects. This applies, for example, to the CO2 prices that have been collected in the transport and heating sectors for a year and are expected to rise sharply by 2025.

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Wherever products are manufactured using the energy-intensive use of high temperatures, companies are under pressure.

Mind you: This is not about EU-wide trading in CO2 certificates, which creates a level playing field for all companies. It’s about a special German route that is already having perverse consequences: companies that need a lot of heat for their production process are relocating their production to other European countries – in order to transport their products back to Germany by truck if in doubt. The consequence is rather higher CO2 emissions than lower ones.

Conclusion: If climate protection does not work in global lockstep, then it should at least be a European one.

What makes me particularly nervous: That we in Germany are so damn sure that we are taking the right step by phasing out nuclear power in the current climate-political situation – while our closest allies on the other side of the Rhine are in the same position on term extensions for set existing nuclear power plants and new nuclear power plants. Germany or France: one of the two nations is driving the wrong way when it comes to energy policy. The only question is which one.

Our reporter Anna Gauto spoke to the last German nuclear proponents and scrutinized their arguments. She comes to the conclusion: From a purely economic point of view, it would probably not actually pay off to fill the threatening energy gap in Germany with nuclear power.

Like the Hallig residents for the spring tide, we in Germany are waiting for the predicted wave of hospital admissions, caused by the particularly contagious Omikron variant of the coronavirus. But while the high water levels occur reliably at full and new moon, the Omikron flood has so far been a long time coming. Now a Canadian expert is cautiously hoping that this could stay that way – and thus confirming the suspicion expressed early on that Omikron causes comparatively weak disease processes.

First discovered in late November, the mutant appears to be less severe and even patients who end up in hospital spend less time there, John Bell, professor of medicine at Oxford University, told the BBC. The immunologist continues: “The horrific scenes we saw a year ago – intensive care units were full, many people died prematurely – are now history in my opinion, and I think we should be reassured that this is likely to continue.”

Are you one of those investors who always have the feeling that they are backing the wrong horse while people are getting rich left and right? This is how many people would have felt in 2021 if they dutifully and sensibly invested their savings in an index fund, for example on the MSCI World share index. Sure, a 20 percent return on an annual basis is more than decent. But if one had – had, had, had, blockchain chain – instead relied on an index of crypto currencies, it would have been 126 percent plus. However, with huge fluctuations in the course of the year, which you have to endure nervously first.

Is it too late to jump on the crypto train? No, say the Handelsblatt crypto currency experts Astrid Dörner and Mareike Müller with all due caution and the reference to the small print in the virtual package insert. The market is moving away from the classic Bitcoin towards even more innovative products. According to one analyst, however, the market is being driven by FOMO – which stands for Fear of Missing Out.

In plain language: The fear of missing out on opportunities for returns drives more and more investors into new crypto investments. Anyone who complains that FOMO is a typical indicator of speculative bubbles is probably just jealous.

And then there is Daniel Holefleisch, the husband of Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. He previously worked as a lobbyist for Deutsche Post AG, which, given his wife’s new job, would of course have raised some compliance issues. Even before the general election, Baerbock had therefore said that if she accepted a government office, it would be “very clear that my husband would not be able to continue his work there”. Now a post spokesman for the magazine “Bunte” confirmed that Holefleisch had not been active for the group since the summer.

This is great news for three reasons. First, because Baerbock kept his word. Second, because she has refrained from hanging this matter of course on the big communication bell. And thirdly, because hopefully she will no longer be confronted with the question that a man in her position would never have to face anyway: who is making the sandwiches for the two daughters while the minister is traveling around the world.
In any case, I wish you a day full of perfectly smeared sandwiches.

Best regards
Her

Christian Rickens
Textchef Handelsblatt

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