Who drives, loses.

A lot has come together for motorists this year: VAT normalization, pressure on the crude oil markets and entry into carbon dioxide pricing.

Everything together leads to a shock at the gas station - and to heated debates about the social compatibility of climate protection.

Christian Geinitz

Business correspondent in Berlin

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    Manfred Schäfers

    Business correspondent in Berlin.

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      The speed limit on the autobahn, which the Greens and the SPD are demanding in their election programs, is already unreasonable for many Germans.

      And then also increase the fuel price?

      The fact that the Greens had a hangover in the polls and did not do particularly well in the state elections in Saxony-Anhalt is also related to their announcement that in the event of a federal election victory, the price for greenhouse gas emissions will increase more than planned.

      According to the will of the eco-party, the emission of one ton of carbon dioxide in two years will cost 60 euros, 25 euros more than the current government has decided.

      An excitement in the election campaign

      With the help of the Fuel Emissions Trading Act, the black-red coalition introduced a CO2 tax at the beginning of the year on fossil fuels and places of consumption that were previously not subject to European emissions trading. This is especially true for fuels and for heating with oil or gas. Since January 1st, a ton of carbon dioxide has cost 25 euros; the price increases by 5 euros every year. The emission certificates are to be auctioned for the first time in 2026, initially in a corridor of 55 to 65 euros. From 2027 onwards, the price should then be free on the market.

      The national emissions tax has already pushed the costs up considerably: by 7 cents per liter of petrol and 8 cents for diesel and heating oil.

      In relation to the same amount of energy, gas has cost 5 cents more since the beginning of the year.

      That meant a hefty premium, sometimes by more than 10 percent.

      If it were up to the green candidate for Chancellor Annalena Baerbock, then CO2 pricing would make fuels more expensive by 16 cents as early as 2023.

      This plan is quite a stir in the looming federal election campaign.

      Above all, the SPD chancellor candidate and finance minister Olaf Scholz made himself the advocate of the common people and said that climate protection should not overburden anyone.

      That may have surprised friends and foes, after all, Scholz had played a key role in driving the CO2 tax in the cabinet.

      And after the ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court on the Climate Protection Act, he gave the impression that he wanted to keep up the pace.

      According to his memory, it was the Union that prevented a stricter climate protection law - not the coalition partner SPD.

      "But we can correct that quickly," tweeted Scholz at the time, and asked Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) provocatively: "Are you there?"

      A vote in Switzerland just showed how much the demand for social cushioning can get caught up in the electorate.

      Citizens there rejected the increase in CO2 prices, not least on the grounds that driving or air travel should not only be something “for the rich”.

      Enable life in the country

      The core of the debate on socially fair carbon dioxide pricing revolves around the question of how to relieve citizens and companies elsewhere. On the one hand, thought is being given to lowering the electricity tax and abolishing the levy on the electricity price under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG); The CO2 revenues are already being used to stabilize the EEG surcharge. The SPD also wants apartment owners to share in the increased heating and hot water costs of their tenants. After all, it would be up to them to reduce consumption by investing in energy. Another possibility of relief is to pay out a climate premium or energy money to all citizens to compensate for the rising prices.