Europe is tipping into the unknown because of Russian gas

(Berlin) On Monday, Germany and with it Europe will enter a phase of great uncertainty about the continuation of their imports of Russian gas, which have already been sharply reduced in recent weeks, and which could soon dry up completely.

Posted at 10:09 p.m

Russian giant Gazprom this morning began maintenance work on the two Nord Stream 1 gas pipelines that carry a large volume of its gas, which is still being shipped to Germany and several other countries in Western Europe.

This long-announced 10-day standstill of the two pipes should theoretically only be a technicality.

But with the war in Ukraine and the showdown between Moscow and the West over energy, no one can bet on the future.

faucet closed

“Putin will turn off the gas tap for us… but will he ever open it again? “The most-read daily newspaper in Germany, Bild am Sonntag, was concerned.

“We are facing an unprecedented situation, everything is possible,” admitted German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck on public broadcaster at the weekend.

“It is possible that the gas will flow again, even in larger quantities than before. It’s possible that nothing more is coming and as always, we have to prepare for the worst,” he added.

Moscow has already cut gas supplies from Nord Stream by 60% in recent weeks, citing a technical problem, a decision Berlin has denounced as “political”. Elsewhere in Europe, Gazprom has done the same, cutting off supplies to some countries and to others, such as Poland and Bulgaria, entirely.

Berlin therefore worked hard on Saturday to convince Canada to return a turbine destined for Nord Stream 1 that was being serviced in the country. And that despite protests from Ukraine.

Germany did not want to give Moscow an additional argument to stop its gas supplies. Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed “the decision of our Canadian friends” through his spokesman on Sunday.

Berlin also argues that it would be difficult for Gazprom to halt its supplies via Nord Stream for technical reasons, as the gas produced in the Siberian field is “under pressure” and cannot be stored forever. “It’s not like a faucet,” Habeck said.

fear of rationing

Since the start of the war, Germany has shut down another Russian gas pipeline it was supposed to bring on stream – Nord Stream 2 – and is scrambling to reduce its dependency, but it’s still significant: 35% of its gas imports come from Russia, compared to 55% before the war. And more than 50% of homes are always heated with gas.

A permanent shutdown of Nord Stream 1 would not only disadvantage Europe’s leading economy.

According to the Nord Stream company’s website, gas arriving in Germany in the city of Lubmin will then be further transported to Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands “and ‘other countries'”.

A longer supply halt would therefore exacerbate the energy crisis Europe is already grappling with, with rising prices and fears of a very difficult winter.

In Germany, the authorities are already considering rationing plans.

The chemical industry is particularly vulnerable as it is heavily dependent on gas. The industry association VCI is preparing for “the worst-case scenario”, a severe recession is imminent.

The giant BASF is considering sending some of its employees into partial unemployment.

“If we don’t get Russian gas anymore […] the quantities currently stored are only sufficient for one to two months,” warns Klaus Müller, President of the Federal Network Agency.

The House of Representatives already approved a symbolic savings plan on Thursday: more heating above 20 degrees in winter and more hot water in individual offices.

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