Less than 24 hours after the Russian gas giant Gazprom announced further reductions in natural gas flow through Nord Stream 1, the European Union responded with “coordinated demand reduction measures,” according to the European Commission.

The measures include reducing Europe’s gas use by 15% to replenish energy storage before winter and implementing an alarm system in which the commission can declare an emergency state, “triggering compulsory gas consumption reductions across the Member States,” per the EC.

The New York Times reports that, until last Thursday, Germany was unsure Russia would restart gas shipments, as the Nord Stream 1 pipeline had been shut off for 10 days of scheduled maintenance. The gas flow was reinstated, but Gazprom announced Monday they would half the current flow, already a significant reduction from the normal supply, per Reuters.

The scale of the shortage

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, announced in a press release July 18, that “the world is experiencing the first truly global energy crisis in history.”

According to the agency’s release, the European Union needs to save around 12 billion cubic meters of gas over the next three months to avoid a gas crisis this winter — “enough to fill about 130 (liquid natural gas) tankers.”

Driving the crisis:

In June, the Russian-controlled energy giant Gazprom reduced gas flow to 40% through the Nord Stream 1 Pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany, per Reuters. Germany still relies on Russia for around 35% of its gas, France 17%, according to The Washington Post.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, in a press release Wednesday, said, “Gazprom had not the slightest interest to rebalance the market. On the contrary, it kept its storage levels as low as possible, and the supplies too, and therefore reducing the supply, tightening the market and driving up the prices.”

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Russia has been reaping the benefits of high gas prices. According to Birol “Since its invasion of Ukraine, the amount of revenue that Russia has collected from exporting oil and gas to Europe has doubled compared with the average of recent years — to $95 billion.”

Von der Leyen said, “Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon.”

Plan to replace the gas

The European nations are now deepening ties with countries such as Azerbaijan, Qatar, Algeria and Egypt in order to ship liquid natural gas into the continent, according to von der Leyen.

Birol concluded his policy recommendations by encouraging unity among the European nations. “This winter could become a historic test of European solidarity — one it cannot afford to fail — with implications far beyond the energy sector. Europe may well be called upon to show the true strength of its union.”

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