Flaws in EU gas rationing plan revealed

Cold weather could pose a challenge to bloc solidarity, suggests The Economist

The EU gas rationing plan approved on Tuesday may not stand the test of a cold winter, The Economist wrote on Wednesday.

A “lean” Reducing gas consumption will not solve the continent’s problems, writes the publication, referring to the plan which will see most EU countries voluntarily reduce their natural gas consumption by 15% between August 1 and March 31 from next year.

The deal was struck amid growing fears of a possible Russian gas supply cutoff. Currently, the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a key artery that carries natural gas from Russia to Germany, is operating at 20% capacity. Russian energy giant Gazprom cites technical problems with the turbines as the reason for the reduced flow. However, the EU believes Moscow is using the gas to exert political pressure on the bloc. An alternative route via Ukraine has been restricted through Kyiv.

The main reason for rationing is to “ensure that a shortage of Russian gas does not leave homes without heat or factories closed”writes The Economist, but according to the publication, its success largely depends on the weather.

“If the coming winter is mild, the EU could be fine. But if it’s cold, the block will have to prove that it can hold its own when times get tough. Germany in particular will have to show solidarity with the other member countries. It is located at the center of the European gas pipeline network. Will it, for example, allow gas to be piped to the Czech Republic to keep people from freezing there if it means its factories have to be furloughed? » writes the publication, adding that at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, some European countries, including Germany, imposed export bans on protective equipment to avoid shortages at home.

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The plan has several other weaknesses, notes The Economist, such as the varying levels of exposure to Russian gas among nations.

Ahead of its approval, a number of countries including Italy, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and Spain raised concerns, saying they had already cut consumption, citing lack of connection to the European gas pipeline network and the fact that energy decisions are generally a national matter, Bloomberg wrote earlier. The approved plan came with some exemptions, with Spain and Portugal only allowed to use 7% less gas. Other concessions were also made but proved insufficient to gain unanimous approval of the plan, with Hungary voting against.

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