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Italy to ration air conditioning and heat to wean country off Russian gas

Two weeks after Italians were told they would have a choice between “air conditioning or peace”, the government appears to have made the choice for them, introducing rationing of air conditioning and heating in a bid to reduce the country’s dependence on imported Russian energy.

From May 21, public buildings such as government offices and schools in Italy will be restricted in how much they can use heating and air conditioning to regulate temperature in a bid to reduce energy consumption. In summer, the air conditioning units will not be set to a temperature lower than 25 degrees centigrade (77°F) and in winter, the heating will not be set to a temperature higher than 19°C (66°F), The Giornale reports.

While both temperatures are easily within the comfortable range, the move away from a constant year-round indoor temperature that the advent of automatic central heating and air conditioning has made common in wealthy countries is a attempt to reduce Italy’s energy consumption, and with it, the country’s use of imported Russian gas and oil.

In announcing ‘Operation Thermostat’ this week, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi raised the possibility of a European Union-wide embargo on Russian gas – an energy source on which the EU is deeply dependent. , with some members like Germany not yet ready to give it up – saying Italy would support the measure.

Draghi foreshadowed the order a fortnight ago, when he rhetorically asked the nation, “Do we want peace [in Ukraine] or do we want to turn on the air conditioning? The Prime Minister was ridiculed for his remarks at the time.

The new rule affects government-owned and operated buildings, but exceptions exist for hospitals and healthcare facilities. While the ad may possibly encourage the public to do the same voluntarily, there are even suggestions in Corriere della Sera that air conditioning and heat rationing may be extended to private homes on a mandatory basis in the future.

As it stands, the measure for government buildings is enforced by fines, starting at €500 ($530/£420) and up to €3,000 ($3,250/£2,500).

The huge share of the European energy market made up of Russian gas and oil has become a major point of contention since Moscow resumed its invasion of Ukraine from February. The political leverage that Europe being a major energy importer gives to Russia is not a surprise; former US President Donald Trump warned of these exact consequences years ago – but he scoffed.

Europe’s dependence is such that even if Russia invades a European Union neighbour, EU governments continue to fund Moscow to the tune of a billion dollars a day, because no alternative but Economic collapse, or at the very least a severe recession, awaits Europe if it turns off the gas taps.

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