The main topic of recent publications in the European media has been the discussion of record gas prices. As a result, the population of the European Union countries is facing a real shock threat, and the European industry is approaching a critical point. Gas and electricity prices break new records every day, and some energy-intensive companies are shutting down production because it is becoming too expensive to maintain them. The situation could worsen if the energy crisis goes from a price shock to a deficit, and then more industries would have to make a decisive move by using the switch.
The discussion of rising energy prices was a hot topic at the meeting of EU finance ministers, which began on October 4 in Luxembourg. Against this background, a geographical split has already emerged in the EU: Eastern Europe fears a fuel crisis, while renewable energy sources are becoming more expensive in Western European countries. Northern Europe is calling for a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Countries more dependent on fossil fuels fear that energy from renewable sources will also become too expensive.
As The Independent notes, some gas-consuming companies in Europe and Asia have gone bankrupt because of rising prices. Four energy companies in Britain alone have not withstood price rises in recent weeks, and heavy industry is suffering.
British market analyst Bill Blain is confident that Britons will be dying of cold this winter. As energy prices continue to rise, costs will place a disproportionate burden on the poorest members of society. Under these conditions, the problem of income inequality will manifest itself in full, as the most vulnerable citizens will face a stark choice: heat or food. So Britain is likely to be on its knees this winter, begging for energy wherever it can. The situation in Europe will be no better. The Middle East will raise prices as much as it can.
On October 7, one of London’s most prominent think tanks, Capital Economics, presented its research on Europe’s current energy challenges, indicating that natural gas prices in Europe will remain at historic highs over the next year. The extraordinary increase in gas prices increases the likelihood that European governments will be forced to impose restrictive regulations in electricity and natural gas supply to industry and households, leading to marked economic losses in the eurozone economy.
Moreover, millions of European families use natural gas for home heating and cooking. If they do not secure themselves with long-term supply contracts at a fixed price or are not helped by the national authorities, they could face a severe price shock.
In France, the government has already promised a one-time subsidy of 100 euros to 5.8 million low-income households to cover some of the increased energy costs. In Spain, the country’s authorities have announced a reduction in consumer energy prices to 2018 levels. In addition, the government called on the European Commission to “immediately respond to the price hike.”
Europe’s energy price shock could be further exacerbated if Algeria implements a threat to shut down the Algerian gas pipeline to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. Algeria had already announced the pipeline’s closure on October 30 because of the escalating conflict between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara, which Morocco claims. After the European Commission stressed the importance of the strategic partnership with Morocco, Algeria threatened to close the gas pipeline through Morocco to Europe.
Amid Europe’s energy crisis, France, Spain, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Greece have proposed an investigation into the causes of the record gas price hike, the five EU countries said in a joint statement released by Bloomberg.
Nurtured in recent years by Washington’s Russophobic propaganda, certain political circles in Europe did not fail to strengthen their unjustified attacks on Russia, accusing it of being responsible for the considerable increases in gas prices in the recent period. Thus, on April 17, 42 non-partisan MPs sent a letter to the European Commission calling for an investigation into suspected price manipulation by Russian Gazprom, which exports gas to Europe. On September 22, State Department’s Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein criticized Russia in a televised interview for refusing to supply gas when there are sufficient reserves.
The other day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an interview with Bloomberg, urged Russia not to use energy supplies to promote its foreign policy interests or as a “weapon of its foreign policy.” In doing so, he deliberately failed to mention the considerable role played by the US in aggravation of the energy crisis in Europe, a provocative price policy of Washington in supplying its LNG to the European market. It was using Ukraine, Poland, and other “US minions” to slow down Russia’s construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline. If the pipeline had been put into operation, it would have prevented a gas deficit in Europe long ago.
However, all of these regular slanderous Russophobic campaigns have been shattered by the convincing conclusions of several German politicians and international experts. Thus, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published a statement on September 21 in which it commented on the gas price hike and provably refuted fake accusations of Russia. As the Japanese publication Yahoo News Japan emphasizes, all the factors of price increases cited by the IEA are economical, and there is no evidence that Russia’s political or geopolitical intentions are behind supply cuts or price manipulation. On September 22, a representative of the German Economy and Energy Ministry also said that Russia was fulfilling its contractual obligations. German utility Uniper, which buys Russian gas, confirmed on September 22 that it receives gas from Gazprom in accordance with the contract.
It was possible to stop and even reduce the rise in energy prices for Europe only after Russian President Putin became involved in resolving this issue. As Bloomberg admits, “After the Russian president said the other day that Russia is ready to help stabilize global energy markets, Putin is literally saving Europe.”
Therefore, after World War II, history has repeated itself, and once again, Russia is rescuing Europe and Europeans from collapse. Here’s hoping that Europeans will keep this in mind and will not throw themselves, as in the 1950s, “in return” for this into another “cold war” with Russia and a Russophobic information campaign.
Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.