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Business

Greens Fume at German Energy Report

A new report measures the economic burden of German environmental reforms.

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Economy Minister Werner Müller

German Economy Minister Werner Müller fanned the flames of Germany’s environmental debate on Tuesday, saying it is not economically sound to simultaneously abolish nuclear power and meet heightened standards on carbon dioxide emissions.

The Green Party, junior members in the governing coalition with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democrats, are fuming.

Accusations that Müller’s report is “anti-environment” have poisoned the atmosphere in the coalition which just 12 days ago received a fresh vote of confidence from the parliament.

Müller, an independent politician and former energy executive for Veba Kraftwerke Ruhr AG, said that Germany can reach the government’s goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25 per cent by 2005 or 2006.

But more ambitious goals, he warned, could hurt the country’s economy.

Concurrent cuts in nuclear and coal power could force, instead, reliance on gas and oil. With that, Müller warned, Germany would be more susceptible to price fluctuations, and the risk would be passed on to individual consumers and companies, raising the spectre of job cuts.

The Greens, believers in the promise of solar power, rejected the assessment, which threatens their party’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emission levels by 25 per cent by 2025.

Green party spokesman Michaele Hustedt told the Frankfurter Allgemeine-Zeitung that Müller report is “tendentious and scientifically untenable.”

Yet another snub

The report, whether or not it is taken as a policy guide by Schröder’s Social Democrats, constitutes a new snub to Greens who feel manhandled by their coalition partners.

Just last weekend, the party voted at its annual conference to abandon its long-standing pacifist policy by supporting a deployment of 3,900 German soldiers in the U.S.-led “war on terror”. It was a dramatic display of solidarity with the coalition partners, and left many party faithful grumbling that their ideals have been sacrificed for power’s sake.

Müller’s report is certainly no reward for their pains, and his independent political status may be little consolation. The economy minister is a key figure in Schröder's government.