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Bloomberg 50

Robert Habeck, Germany’s Effective Economic Minister

Under his watch the country dramatically reduced its reliance on energy from Russia after the invasion of Ukraine: Through August, natural gas imports dropped to 25% from 55%, oil to 12% from 35%, and coal to zero from half.

Robert Habeck
Robert Habeck

Photo illustration: 731; photo: Andreas Gora/Pool/Getty Images

Other big European Union economies were less dependent on Russia. France relies on home-generated nuclear power, for example; Spain, mainly on oil and gas from Algeria. Germany turned to Canada, Norway and Qatar for supplies, but Robert Habeck has also advocated pragmatism at home. He’s instituted a gas-rationing program (that risks shutting down some factories this winter), and he’s jawboned companies and citizens into improving conservation. He’s also helped the country advance its own liquefied natural gas infrastructure, with Germany’s first offshore LNG terminal on track to open in December. Habeck has done all this even though he’s a member of the Green Party, whose founding principles include weaning Germany off fossil fuels. (Natural gas imports stopped in September when Russian President Vladimir Putin switched off the pipeline, and oil imports will cease at the end of the year when an embargo against Russia goes into effect.)

Despite Habeck’s failure to push through a gas levy—and grumbling from conservatives that a playwright-and-children’s-book-author-turned-politician has no business overseeing Europe’s largest economy—his open, frank style has made him a more trusted voice on handling the situation than Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In fact, Habeck has emerged as a strong rival to a fellow Green, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, to be the party’s next candidate to lead a government.