Missing the Red for All the Green
Although Germany's entire defense budget is $42 billion, it is, as Donald Trump provocatively observed, only twice as much -- approximately $21 billion -- as what it pays to Russia in gas purchases. The facts are stark. "About 35% of Germany’s gas is imported from Russia, and fracking is banned at least until 2021. A former Chancellor of Germany sits on the Gazprom board." At a time when Putin is the international bad guy, it's disturbingly hard to deny that much of his bankroll originates in Europe.
Merkel is certainly intellectually aware of the facts. In light of her country's energy dependency on Russia, she warned that "all of Germany's energy policies must be reconsidered." But Merkel is captive to Germany's politics, bound by its "Energiewende policy involving phasing out nuclear power by 2023 and increasing its reliance on solar and wind power." Although fracking may provide a a technical escape from dependence on Russia, it is a political impossibility.
Environmentalists say the technology is highly risky ... only ... Lower Saxony has decided to allow fracking, and then only under certain conditions. ... [even though] gas can be found in depths of up to 4,000 meters - significantly more than all of Germany's known conventionally extractable natural gas reserves ...
But in the foreseeable future there won't be a political majority in support of it. Furthermore, the German government ruled out fracking in its coalition agreement if toxic substances are used. If this does not change, Germany will be forced to import all its gas in the foreseeable future.
This mirrors the broader political situation on a continent that is both energy poor and rich in environmental zeal. "The EU is the largest energy importer in the world, importing 53% of its energy, at an annual cost of around €400 billion. ... The EU has .... an emissions trading system ... to counter climate change, and a major factor in EU energy policy. " The one constrains the other. But as with Germany, the tightness of the bonds varies by locality. Poland and other eastern European countries -- probably with the memory of the Soviet era still vivid -- are more willing to rely on coal and possibly shale gas "as a higher priority than CO2 reduction."
But in Western Europe things are different. There the long shadow of the anti-nuclear movement hangs over the electorate. Even considering non-carbon energy sources, it's interesting to compare French and German nuclear energy choices. "Nuclear power is a major source of energy in France, with a 40% share of energy consumption in 2015 ... the largest source of electricity in the country, with .... 76.3% of the country's total production of 546 TWh, the highest percentage in the world". By contrast German nuclear power is in the process of assisted suicide. "Nuclear power in Germany accounted for 17.7% of national electricity supply in 2011, compared to 22.4% in 2010. ... As of 2017, the share of nuclear power in the electricity sector in the country is decreasing following the decision of a complete nuclear phase-out by the next decade."