On 2 January 2006, Deutsche Welle published an article on their web site titled Gas Dispute Reignites Atomic Energy Debate. In that article, the German Economics Minister, Michael Glos, is described as wanting to initiate a discussion about Germany’s planned shutdown of its nuclear power plants.
He is careful to indicate that he does not want to start an argument with his governing coalition partners, some of whom have made their opposition to nuclear power a main plank in their party platform.
He also took great pains to reassure German consumers that the dispute will not affect them immediately, but indicated that a longer term disruption might affect gas supplies provided to industries. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it does not take much of a gas supply disruption to industrial customers to cause significant impact to those consumers that work at the company.
People need a certain amount of heat in order to survive, but industries also need energy in order to continue their production. If the factory shuts down due to a lack of fuel, there is certainly no reason to keep as many employees around. If the shutdown lasts for too long, there will not be a company to which the employees can return.
In other words, industrial companies and their employees should join Mr. Glos in his effort to initiate a discussion with government leaders, including those that are members of the Social Democrats. They should also begin the process of explaining their need for power to the rest of the German population.
I am sure that there are at least a few people in the country that remember how cold it was in the winter of 1948-49 during the Berlin Airlift, when their main source of fuel was bags of coal dropped out of the sky.
Cutting off the fuel supply was one of the Soviet Union’s favorite ways of imposing its will on reluctant members of its sphere of influence. This is not a new political weapon; it has been used a number of times before.