Rising energy prices: who should pay?

In the face of energy shortages and rising electricity prices, several EU countries are discussing how to save the economy while easing the burden on citizens. Europe's press engages in a lively debate about excess profits taxes, subsidies, ways to save energy and the role of politics.

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De Volkskrant (NL) /

Force landlords to take action

De Volkskrant calls for targeted support for low-income groups:

“Perhaps a ceiling can be set on the energy bills of tenants in poorly insulated apartments - for which they themselves bear no responsibility - during the winter? Or their rent could be halved over the winter so that landlords are encouraged to do something about improving insulation? France can serve as a model. President Emmanuel Macron has already taken drastic measures here. A section of the Dutch population is facing very difficult times. This is a problem that cannot be put on the back burner.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Do not save shareholder profits

Deutschlandfunk criticises the way money is flowing towards companies via the gas levy in Germany:

“Among them are companies that have really raked in the cash in recent months due to the energy price crisis. Some of these companies, such as OMV Aktiengesellschaft, are posting record results for this year. Yet now they are allowed to pass on their increased costs for procuring gas to the general public. So from October on, gas customers in Germany are to ensure that shareholders' returns don't decrease. Is that fair? Certainly not. It would have been better to support those companies that have really got into financial difficulties due to the additional gas costs with taxpayers' money - and are crucial for our supply - for example, Uniper.”

ABC (ES) /

Families cannot borrow money permanently

ABC is concerned about the Spaniards' growing debts:

“Households have always borrowed money to cover extraordinary or one-off expenses. ... But at the moment Spanish families are having to borrow money to cover their daily living expenses. ... The demand for consumer credit has increased by more than five percentage points in one year. ... In this situation it would be better to cut taxes than to increase household debt. ... Families have always been the safety net for the unemployed and the destitute. ... Excessive debt could undermine the strength of this social safety net called the family, for which the government has so little respect.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Massive energy-saving campaign needed

Sweden's major parties have promised massive compensation payments for rising energy costs. Dagens Nyheter is not convinced:

“We need a major energy-saving campaign like during the oil crisis in the 1970s. Back then people were encouraged to take fewer showers and lower room temperatures. One could add other measures, such as not keeping appliances in standby mode - this accounts for about ten percent of energy consumption in private households. ... In Germany, such campaigns are already in full swing. In Sweden, on the other hand, money is being handed out to homeowners, and companies [like Facebook and Google] are getting a 98 percent electricity tax rebate. This is not the way to raise crisis awareness.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Targeted measures needed

The state must organise its aid better, demands La Libre Belgique:

“So far the state's action has been untargeted. ... Households with solar panels and good insulation don't need support today, although past expenses should of course be taken into account. Single-person households - especially those on low incomes - living in a flat with a deplorable energy efficiency rating and gas heating do. This example alone shows that an accurate register of the situation of households must be compiled as quickly as possible. This would prevent abuse and breakdowns in the payment of bonuses and other subsidies.”

Népszava (HU) /

The forests must be protected

Népszava is very critical of the Hungarian government's new decree easing the regulations so that trees can be felled to be used for firewood in the winter:

“The decree says that 'cleared forest' does not have to be replaced if the forest is capable of renewing itself naturally from shoots. Is that really the case? What humans arbitrarily destroy, nature cannot easily replace. ... If the acacia forests, of which there are many in Hungary, are cleared, honey production will be endangered and beekeepers will be left without a livelihood. ... Bees are not only hard-working honey producers. ... If they die out, they leave behind barren fields, meadows and forests that cannot renew themselves.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Trust in the free market

The Daily Telegraph criticises British opposition leader Keir Starmer's calls for a six-month price cap on energy to ease the burden on consumers:

“Sooner or later - and it may come more quickly than we think - the balance in supply and demand will switch, the market will turn and oil and gas prices will plummet, just as they did on the numerous other occasions when oil prices spiked. The market will have performed its magic again. But it will only do so if it is allowed to - if governments don't try to interfere, subsidising consumers and seizing producers' profits.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Gas supplies concern us all

In Germany, all gas consumers are to pay an additional 2.419 cents per kilowatt hour from October on. The levy is necessary to prevent the energy supply system in Germany from collapsing, the government says. For the Tagesspiegel, it seems like a contradiction:

“They are to pay ... but only those households that use gas - so about half of all them. In the economy, those industries that depend on gas and cannot switch to other energy sources, such as the chemical and glass industries, as well as all those that need cooling for production and distribution, such as pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs, will be particularly hard hit. Yet a partial loss of gas supplies would be felt by everyone. So why is the rescue of the system not seen as a task for society as a whole, financed by all its members?”

jinovsvet.blog (SI) /

Don't mess up the green turnaround, too

When it comes to energy independence, the EU is failing miserably, criticises Sašo Ornik in his blog Jinov Svet:

“We've messed up the fight against Covid-19 as well as the economic war with Russia and now we will also mess up the green transformation. With the latter, it is becoming increasingly clear that some people will accumulate immense fortunes by selling us a cleaner, greener future, but in reality nothing will change. ... We need a turnaround. To achieve this, we need different political elites, we need more responsible journalists and business people. We need to make sure that we become truly independent from the rest of the world, and we need to fight for our interests, not for those of the Americans.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Don't mess with the free market economy

Estonia plans to introduce a subsidised 'social electricity price'. Eesti Päevaleht is sceptical:

“Welcome back to the planned economy! The universal electricity price package soon to be presented by the government removes us several steps from the economic logic that has brought Estonia success so far: the free market economy. Before fast-tracking subsidised electricity we should recall the IMF's recommendation: the best way to help the population is to support its poorest fifth. A universal below-market price package, on the other hand, is a general subsidy.”

tagesschau.de (DE) /

Stop the anger from boiling over

Tagesschau.de criticises the fact that Germany is unlikely to introduce an excess profits tax:

“Such a tax is apparently anathema to the liberal German Finance Minister Christian Lindner. Raising taxes is a bad idea right now, he says - they need to be lowered instead. For those who have little or almost nothing, that is certainly true. But for everyone else? Top earners, profitable companies and those corporations that are currently winners in the crisis? Why shouldn't they now have to make an appropriate financial contribution to the exploding energy costs? And indeed, to ensure that the anger doesn't boil over in the autumn and winter, leading to what many already fear: social unrest.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

The rich waste the most

In La Libre Belgique, economist Étienne de Callataÿ points to those who need to cut their consumption most:

“We all need to make a significant effort to protect the environment, but according to our capacities, in particular our financial ones, as well as our ecological footprint. In this respect there is a statistic that clearly shows that the wealthiest must make the greatest effort. Because in this respect, the less affluent half of the population in the US and France have a carbon footprint within the reduction targets to be achieved by 2030 - or close to it. So they are not the ones who must take action or restrictive measures. It's the other half that needs to make a big effort!”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Time to come clean and address the problem

Dagens Nyheter is angered by politicians who trivialise serious problems:

“It is both irresponsible and misleading when they promise voters, directly or indirectly, that climate change and the transformations that result from it will not affect the lives and daily routines of 'ordinary people'. They will. The difference, however, is that the bill will be smaller if we deal with the situation today than if we put it off until tomorrow.”

The Economist (GB) /

Pessimism was exaggerated

Germany is doing better than expected in its efforts to disconnect itself from Russia, says The Economist:

“When Mr Putin invaded, Germany relied on Russia for 55 percent of its gas. Doomsayers warned that supplies would be choked off, German factories would close and families would shiver in their kitchens. In fact, even as Russia’s share of the German gas market has halved, stores of gas for winter are building at a normal pace. Industry says it can cut back use more than expected. Faced with higher prices and conservation campaigns, households will do the same.”