EU asks member states to start rationing gas due to Russia "blackmail"
European Union leaders, citing risks from "the Kremlin's weaponization of gas exports," proposed plans Wednesday for all member states to reduce natural gas consumption by 15% until spring.
Why it matters: The plan reflects growing concern that Russia, the EU's top supplier, could cut exports of the key industrial, electric and residential fuel well beyond already reduced levels. “Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
Driving the news: The plan calls for member states to voluntary cut demand by 15% from August until the end of next March.
- The proposed regulation would also give EU officials the power to impose mandatory curbs.
- The European Commission vowed to "accelerate work on supply diversification, including joint purchasing of gas to strengthen the EU's possibility of sourcing alternative gas deliveries."
- European leaders, including von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian President Mario Draghi, had meetings this week with leaders of gas-rich countries, though any additional supply is likely only to fill a fraction of the gap if Russia turns off the taps.
The bottom line: "If the bloc’s 27 member countries agree to adopt the plan and the new legislation that goes with it, it would solidify the sense that Europe’s economy is on war footing because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine," the NYT reports.
- "You can cut some energy usage by tightening efficiencies and encouraging good behavior, but make no mistake: a 15% cut in gas usage across the EU means colder, darker homes, idled factories, smaller economies and — almost inevitably — widespread public anger at governments," the FT's Henry Foy writes.
Catch up fast: Russian President Vladimir Putin, per multiple reports, said in Iran late Tuesday that the key Nord Stream pipeline would be re-started Thursday after maintenance.
- But he "warned that flows ... could be curbed soon if sanctions prevent additional maintenance on its components," the WSJ reports.