#85: Energy crisis, abortion law, Tesla trouble
And a weekend of free architecture tours
Dear 20 Percenters,
First off, thanks to everyone who came out to the summer fest on Tuesday. It was great to hear what you like (and don’t like) about the newsletter. We learned a lot and had a great time. We’ll do it again for our first birthday in September. Thanks!
Climate protesters blocked Frankfurter Tor Thursday morning, causing traffic jams reaching in both directions along Berlin’s main eastern artery, Karl-Marx-Allee/Frankfurter Allee. The activists, which belong to the “last generation” group, superglued themselves to the street making removal by the police difficult. Friday morning, the same group struck again, this time blocking autobahn exits in Charlottenburg. Drivers stuck in traffic weren’t amused. Already on Wednesday, protesters sprayed the walls of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office with black paint to protest a plan to drill for oil in the North Sea (photo).
Four months into the Ukraine war and Berlin’s energy and climate policies are in tatters. With the EU phasing out Russian oil and Russia reducing the amount of gas flowing through the Nordstream pipeline, Germany is scrambling for alternative sources of fossil fuel. It’s importing gas from wherever it can, from Qatar to the US. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Grüne) has announced we’re at alert level 2 of the government’s gas emergency plan. Businesses and private households must save gas now if we’re to get through the winter, he says. Part of level 2 is bringing some of Germany’s dirtiest, climate-killing coal-fired power plants back online. Then there’s the plan to reopen the northern coast to oil drilling, previously considered too costly and environmentally risky. It’s not clear if all this will be enough to meet Germany’s huge appetite for energy — till now largely satisfied by cheap Russian gas.
One of the central objectives of the SPD-Green-FDP government was to finally bring Germany in line with the Paris Agreement — a document that the war seems to have rendered obsolete. The reduction of oil, gas and coal is obviously especially high on the Greens’ agenda. But now Habeck, of all people, is struggling to make sure we have enough fossil energy to run the country. What’s more, his party was founded largely around opposition to nuclear power — but, if you ask me, there’s no way around extending the life of the handful of remaining nuclear plants scheduled to be closed. Habeck hasn’t taken that step yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did soon.
And then there’s the €9 ticket. A fantastic experiment — everyone I know is enjoying the almost-free public transport. But I fear it won’t make a real dent in Germany’s driving habits and oil consumption.
Will there be enough energy to keep German business running and heat our homes come autumn? The latter takes priority, of course, meaning we might be heading towards mass unemployment this winter, as some leaders and pundits are already warning because there won’t be enough gas to go around.
It’s all very depressing. Environmentalists are enraged and scared. Consumers are frustrated and scared. And, with the war ongoing, an energy crisis unfolding and climate change looming as never before, our leaders face vast challenges.
We’re in for a hot summer, and perhaps a very cold winter. Whatever happens, here at 20 Percent Berlin we’ll do our best to make sense of it.
More news below!
If you like 20 Percent Berlin, please think about supporting us on Patreon with a few euros per month.
The Berlin corona stats for Friday, June 24
Received booster: 62.5% (61.4% Tuesday)
New cases in one day: 2,885 (4,330 Tuesday)
Total deaths: 4,639 (+4 over Tuesday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 434.6 (334.1 Tuesday)
🟡 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 5.6 (4.9 Tuesday)
🟢 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 2.2% (2.9% Tuesday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
Abortion info ban scrapped
On Friday morning, the Bundestag voted to abolish paragraph 219a of Germany’s criminal code, which criminalised the “advertising” of abortion services by doctors, essentially making it impossible for clinics to provide detailed information about the procedure on their websites. The measure was introduced by the coalition parties (SPD, Die Grüne, FDP) and supported by the leftwing Die Linke. The centre-right CDU/CSU and the far-right AfD voted against axing paragraph 219a.
On Tuesday, Berlin’s transport boss Bettina Jarasch (Grüne), outlined changes in the rules on e-scooters and shared bikes that go into effect on September 1. “Sharing mobility plays an important role in the mobility transition, but it also needs clear rules in big cities with limited space,” Jarasch said. So what are the new “clear rules?” The most important change is more designated parking spaces for e-scooters and rental bicycles in existing car parking spaces. It will be illegal to park scooters/rental bikes in the vicinity of the spaces. Bündnis um Fuss e.V., a coalition of groups representing pedestrians and disabled people, criticised the new rules. “Another 15 years of chaos on Berlin's pavements,” spokesman Roland Stimpel told Tagesspiegel. Simpel criticised the lack of an upper limit on the number of e-scooters on Berlin streets.
The Berlin police department has banned Teslas from some of its facilities, because of the electric cars’ appetite for capturing video footage. Teslas have 8 cameras that are intended to assist drivers with parking and to document accidents, but the cops say the footage is permanently stored in Tesla’s European HQ in The Netherlands, raising Datenschutz issues for our men and women in blue. In other Tesla news, CEO Elon Musk said the Berlin factory is losing billions because of grave supply chain problems. “Both Berlin and Austin factories are gigantic money furnaces right now. OK? It should be like a giant roaring sound which is the sound of money on fire.”
Berlin minimum wage bumped up to €13
The hourly wage of workers employed directly by the state of Berlin, by state-owned companies as well as firms that receive state grants rose by 50 cents to €13. On July 1, the minimum wage for all workers rises to €10.45, up from €9.82. On October 1, it jumps to €12 per hour.
Free architecture tours
Archi-nerds, heads up! This Saturday and Sunday, dozens of architecture offices, building sites and completed projects — from a former swimming pool turned culture space dating back to 1928 in Lichtenberg to a fancy new playground in Schöneberg or hip eco workspace Impact Hub in Neukölln — can be toured for free as part of the Tag der Architektur programme organised by the Chamber of Architects. Here’s a full list of the tours.
Also this weekend: if you see jet fighters over southeastern Berlin, have no fear, it’s just the ILA Berlin aerospace show at BER. Unfortunately for you planespotters, the show is sold-out.
On June 24, 1922 German foreign minister Walter Rathenau — the country’s first-ever Jewish cabinet minister — was assassinated by two right-wing extremists while being driven in his convertible through Grunewald. The son of industrialist Emil Rathenau, he was a scientist, intellectual and liberal, and a hated figure among the antisemitic far-right. For more on Rathenau, check out this informative piece in English on DW.