Prevent energy poverty, but how?
The war in Ukraine is causing a marked rise in energy prices across the globe. This is one of the factors driving Europe to seek independence from Russian fossil fuels as quickly as possible. In the short term, governments are also trying to develop strategies to cushion the impact of price hikes and counteract the impoverishment of the population. Europe's press debates the different approaches.
Targeted aid better than filling station discounts
The Süddeutsche Zeitung does not think much of the cap on petrol prices proposed by German Finance Minister Christian Lindner:
“Aside from the fact that it would tear billion-euro holes in state coffers - where does this lead? Will the state always step in whenever petrol prices exceed the two-euro mark? And what does that mean for other commodities that will now become more expensive? Electricity, heat, wheat, bread rolls: In the next few months there could be all kinds of opportunities for the state to cap exploding prices in this way. ... It may be politically opportune to provide relief for citizens at the pump. ... But it would be wiser to use the billions for those who need help most.”
Público calls for stronger state intervention to rein in the uncontrolled fuel market:
“We need fuel like we need the air we breathe. Nothing reminds us more vividly that there are as yet no alternatives to fossil fuels than a crisis like this. It's easier to be optimistic and rely on major advances in green, alternative or renewable energy when fuel prices are stable.... We may be at the beginning of a generalised inflationary push, a worsening of the situation of those who live solely on their earned income, facing a drastic decline in their purchasing power. The situation is serious. We can no longer accept the yoke of unbridled liberalism.”
Don't appease other dictators
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to convince Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production. The Guardian takes a critical view of the initiative:
“Who next is to be appeased, the 'oligarchs' of the UAE, or Nicolás Maduro, ruler of oil-rich Venezuela? ... The Ukraine war will end and prices will fall, as they have so often before. There is no reason to grant the oil producers their brief opportunity to launder their reputations in western capitals. ... Saudi Arabia is an appalling regime. If Britain regards sanctions as the proper response to Putin's war, it should bear the cost of that response. To oppose one dictator should not require appeasing another.”
Poor people need more
The Dutch government has decided on a relief package of 2.8 billion euros, allowing for about 800 euros in energy subsidies for households with low or medium incomes. This is not enough, De Volkskrant explains:
“The government has still not managed to put together a relief package for the people who really need it. The political will to compensate everyone a little leads to a total fragmentation of the budget. The upshot: the poorest households don't get enough. They can't make it through the year on a one-off payment of 800 euros. Politics means making decisions in times of crisis.”