It was only a matter of time before the largest German gas trader would stumble.

Like no other energy company, Uniper is directly attached to the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, more than half of which the Russians have turned off.

In order to meet its delivery obligations to industry, municipal utilities and other gas suppliers, Uniper has to procure large quantities of gas elsewhere - at a multiple of the calculated costs, but without being able to pass on the additional price to its customers.

That couldn't go well for long, and it will catch up with other gas companies as well.

Two weeks after Russian deliveries were cut, Uniper is the first supplier to call for state aid because it is threatening to run out of money.

It would have a domino effect with devastating consequences for the entire gas market.

How desperate the situation is is shown by the fact that Uniper can even imagine the German state getting involved.

The piquant thing about it: Germany's most important gas importer belongs to a majority-owned Finnish utility, which has already given Uniper a helping hand with loans of 8 billion euros and now sees the federal government as responsible for its subsidiary.

In part, Berlin has maneuvered itself into the difficult situation.

The alarm level has been in effect on the gas market for a week – but in fact nothing has changed as a result.

To do this, a clause would have to be activated that would make it easier to pass on higher procurement costs to customers.

Of course, the regulation, which has just been knitted with a hot needle, has its pitfalls.

Different customer groups would be affected very differently, and pricing could hardly be monitored.

It won't work without a readjustment.

In principle, however, there is no way around letting the price mechanism work: signals of shortages must reach those places where gas can be saved – and the social consequences must be compensated for in a targeted manner using socio-political instruments.