Energy: The gas levy and the social question: The pressure is increasing

From autumn, millions of gas customers will face additional price increases due to a state levy - the pressure on the federal government for further relief is growing.

Energy: The gas levy and the social question: The pressure is increasing

From autumn, millions of gas customers will face additional price increases due to a state levy - the pressure on the federal government for further relief is growing. Social associations warn that many people can no longer bear the higher burdens. The Greens co-chairman Ricarda Lang said on Sunday in the ZDF summer interview: "If we now do a gas levy, then there must be further relief at the same time - so this year, in this autumn, we have to bring relief on the way."

For financing, Lang spoke out in favor of introducing an excess profit tax for companies with high profits due to the crisis, as did SPD chairwoman Saskia Esken. The FDP rejects such a tax. She suggested rewarding Hartz IV recipients if they save energy.

Because of the gas surcharge, which is to come from October, companies and private households will probably be charged an additional several hundred euros per year. The surcharge is intended to benefit gas suppliers such as Uniper, who have to buy replacement gas from Russia at high prices for missing gas volumes. In addition, drastic market-driven price increases are gradually reaching customers anyway.

The federal government had announced further relief when the levy was announced. At the beginning of next year there should be a housing benefit reform, the circle of beneficiaries should be expanded. Also on January 1, 2023, a citizen’s allowance is to come, which is to replace the previous Hartz IV system. In the coalition, however, the exact conditions are still controversial. The government also wants to review the rules on protection against dismissal so that overburdened tenants do not have their rental contracts terminated or energy customers have their supply contracts terminated.

Fast action necessary

But the question is whether the announced relief comes too late. The head of the Federal Association of Consumers, Ramona Pop, told the editorial network Germany that a relief package for low-income households was necessary before the gas levy came: "The most important thing is to act quickly: if the gas levy comes, the aid package must be in place."

The president of the social association VdK, Verena Bentele, warned: "Additional costs of several hundred euros for gas are ruining poorer private households. Many people with low incomes or poorer pensioners already do not know how to pay for their purchases. " Therefore, the housing allowance urgently needs to include a flat rate for heating costs.

The Greens co-chairman Lang said that Hartz IV recipients in particular should be relieved, but also people who are just above that, have a low income but have not been able to save anything and spend a large part of their money on food, housing and heating spend. It's about social cohesion. "We must not leave people alone with these rising costs. And we won't leave people alone either."

Thuringia's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (left) told the German Press Agency in Erfurt: "The traffic light government is currently hardly keeping an eye on social arithmetic. The main reason is the blockade of the FDP."

FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr promised further relief. "If energy costs go up, we have to take countermeasures. We mustn't let consumers fall into the price trap with their eyes wide open," he told dpa.

According to Dürr, it would be conceivable to reward recipients of unemployment benefit II if they save energy. "Anyone who uses less gas than in previous years could have part of the heating costs saved paid out as a subsidy." He supports a proposal by the deputy FDP parliamentary group leader Lukas Köhler.

Lindner promises tax cuts

Finance Minister and FDP leader Christian Lindner had announced a tax cut for low earners and the "working middle class" for the coming year. He had also shown himself open to a significant increase in the commuter allowance from next year.

Parts of the coalition partners SPD and Greens are calling for an excess profit tax. SPD chairwoman Esken told the "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung" that it was "unacceptable that energy companies are making profits from the crisis at a time when the state is stabilizing gas suppliers with a solidarity surcharge or even with taxpayers' money". That is rightly felt to be a great injustice.

SPD faction leader Rolf Mützenich told the newspapers of the Funke media group: "In order to secure social peace in Germany, we have to provide targeted support and relief. This support does not come for free, we all have to do our part. The same applies all the more to Electricity companies that are currently making huge excess profits." Various European countries have developed solutions to distribute the burden more fairly. "In Germany we need similar instruments."

Do only the winners of the crisis benefit?

Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) had also shown himself open to an excess profit tax. The joint general association was upset about the gas levy. "It is unacceptable that crisis winners are now also exempt from any purchasing risk," said the general manager of the welfare association, Ulrich Schneider, the editorial network Germany. He pointed to high profits at the gas supplier Wintershall Dea and at the energy group RWE. Schneider pleaded for an "excess profit tax for companies that have generated and continue to generate extraordinarily high earnings through war and crises".

Scientific advisers to Lindner, on the other hand, "urgently" advise against an excess profit tax. It would lead to "arbitrary burdens and distortions," according to a statement by the Scientific Advisory Board at the Ministry of Finance, which was presented to the dpa on Sunday: "An excess profit tax can be fatal, especially for the innovative power of an economy."

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