Article by Iain Martin - Editor and Publisher for Reaction Life
“Put that light out!” Wartime conditions are returning to parts of Europe, as they transition from lockdown to blackout, after Vladimir Putin cut the flow of gas from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20 per cent of capacity. The city of Hanover, an icon of European prosperity and lifestyle, which was in a political union with Britain from 1714 to 1837, is reducing energy output by turning off the lighting on public buildings and cutting hot water supplies, limiting room temperatures to a maximum of 20C and reducing the times that heating will be on in municipal buildings from October to March.
Other German cities, including Munich, Leipzig, Cologne and Nuremberg, are making similar provisions, while Berlin’s darkened public buildings recall wartime restrictions. Officially, the aim is to meet the EU demand for a 15 per cent cut in gas use among member states, but in fact, Germany is a special case – in energy terms, a basket case – and author of its own misfortunes.
Over the past decade there was much chatter about the “legacy” of Angela Merkel. Well, here it is: the blacked-out cities and businesses contending with the worst energy crisis in Europe are the legacy of Merkel’s insane reliance on Russian gas supplies to light and power Germany. This is what happens when a highly developed industrial society puts its energy supplies at the mercy of a ruthless, war-mongering dictator. There is no excuse for Merkel: she was not crept up upon by the psychotic successor of a reasonable statesman, Putin was already in power when she subjected her country’s energy provision to his whim.
France is in no better shape. Unlike Merkel, France eagerly adopted nuclear power; Fukushima held no terrors for the entitled Énarques. Unfortunately, the largely state-owned French energy authority, Électricité de France (EDF), appears to have maintained its nuclear power stations to Chernobyl standards, so that only 26 of its 57 nuclear reactors are running, with the majority out of action and undergoing emergency maintenance after cracked pipes were discovered.
So, at this crisis point, France is relying largely on gas-fired plants, hydro and unpredictable wind power, as well as imports. No wonder Emmanuel Macron spends much of his waking hours on the telephone to Vladimir Putin. This month the French grid made an emergency request to Britain for extra power – at the height of summer. The French energy crisis is aggravating soaring prices in the European market and, by extension, the eurozone crisis: it seems probable that inflation has embedded itself to become endemic in the eurozone economy.
The whole European Heath Robinson contraption is endangered, long-term, by the perfect storm now assailing it. Soon, anyone who claims Britain’s woes are due to Brexit will simply be told to look across the Channel. If we had remained in the EU, our problems would have been compounded by a compulsory 15 per cent reduction in gas, i.e. energy, use – for the altruistic purpose of bailing out improvident, incompetent Germany.
That does not mean we are immune to the pressures on energy prices being generated on mainland Europe. The UK is fortunate in relying on Russia for only 4-6 per cent of gas supply, but UK wholesale prices, e.g. for next-month delivery, are up to 12 per cent higher as a result of Putin’s Nord Stream 1 game-playing. Britain has made itself vulnerable to rising prices by closing the gas storage facility at Rough on the Yorkshire coast. So, we are making a fast buck by exporting record volumes of gas to Europe that should be stored for the winter in the UK.
The prospects for next winter are rapidly becoming apocalyptic. The energy price cap is forecast to hit an average £3,500 by October, the autumn increase amounting to 74 per cent; inflation is already headed for 11 per cent, but gas price rises will boost it higher. By January, the monthly household energy bill is predicted to reach £500. That is entering life-or-death territory for some of our citizens, while energy costs could put an end to businesses that survived the pandemic lockdown, but can take no more punishment.
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