The United States and much of Western Europe have provided aid to Ukraine and slammed Russia with harsh economic sanctions, but now it appears that Russia has retaliated with arguably its most potent weapon — Europe’s heavy reliance on imported Russian energy.
Concern has grown that already reduced supplies of Russian natural gas to European nations like Germany could be cut off completely, which could lead to a shutdown of the German industry sector and severe rationing imposed on the citizenry, the Financial Times reported.
That concern stems from a supposedly temporary closure of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, ostensibly just for two weeks for routine maintenance. However, there are worries that Russia could prolong that closure indefinitely as a form of leverage over Germany and other European nations that rely heavily upon Russian natural gas.
Russian gas supply cut off
Foreign Policy reported that many European nations are now bracing for its “worst energy nightmare” to become a reality and spark a “winter of discontent” marked by energy rationing, shortages, and shutdowns.
Given Russia’s purported history of engaging in “energy blackmail” against its Western European rivals, there are real fears that this temporary closure of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline could be extended by weeks or even months, if the pipeline is ever even reopened at all — at least while the current conflict in Ukraine continues.
The possibility of no more Russian gas for the foreseeable future has many European nations now scrambling to find other suppliers to make up the shortfall of roughly 40 percent of Europe’s total supply of natural gas ahead of the upcoming winter months.
Such concerns have already prompted Germany and other nations to begin rationing energy consumption and restart previously shuttered coal-fired energy plants in order to reduce pressure on increasingly scarce supplies of natural gas.
Germany to ration energy consumption, shut down industrial base
Germany’s DW reported last week that several housing cooperatives and real estate management groups have already increased rent prices to cover higher costs for gas heating, and some have even begun to limit access to hot water to try and keep costs down.
If the current sharp reduction in Russian gas supplies persist, Germany could face consequential energy shortages this coming winter that will result in government-imposed rationing that will have a devastating economic impact on the country, particularly its industrial base.
That’s because, according to German law, “private households, social services, and district heating suppliers” would have priority in terms of a continuous supply of necessary gas, while the nation’s industry, especially sectors like “steel, crude iron, chemicals, and glass” would not be prioritized for continuous gas supply and could see productivity drop by as much as 50 percent.
France prepares for energy rationing, nationalizing power plants
Nor is it just Germany that is preparing for the impact of no more Russian gas, as Politico reported last week that France’s government has already begun to plan on who and what should be prioritized in terms of the reduced energy supply.
That could mean the French government will soon be deciding which companies and industries are worthy of being supplied with rationed energy and could even result in the government nationalizing power plants or certain companies that it deems more important than others.