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Friday, September 24, 2021

US adviser warns ‘lives at stake’ in European gas crunch

EU power updates

A senior US power adviser has warned that “lives are at stake” in Europe this winter because the continent heads into the season with low gas stockpiles and the specter of lowered provide.

Amos Hochstein, senior adviser for power safety at President Joe Biden’s state division, stated Russia had “under supplied the market compared to its traditional supplies” and contributed to the best costs on file.

“If you get a real cold winter by January and February, you could run out of supplies. And that’s where I get concerned,” he instructed the Financial Times on Saturday throughout a go to to Kyiv, highlighting US fears over Europe’s reliance on Russia for power flows. “This is not just about some geopolitical games. People’s lives are at stake.”

A veteran of the state division in President Barack Obama’s administration and former adviser to then vice-president Biden, Hochstein was appointed final month together with his fast concentrate on mitigating dangers posed by Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Critics say the Kremlin will use the pipeline to undermine Ukraine — by bypassing it and depriving it of transit charges — and enhance its leverage over EU power provides.

The $11bn pipeline, which can ship 55bn cubic metres of gas to Europe yearly, is because of be launched earlier than the tip of the 12 months. Ukrainian officers have accused Moscow of intentionally choking provide to hurry up NS2’s certification with European regulators. This course of continues to be underneath method.

Russia’s power big Gazprom has persistently stated it has met all of its long-term contracts to European patrons, however has confronted criticism for not making further gas out there at a time of tight provides.

Russian president Vladimir Putin stated final week that top gas costs in Europe have been partly a consequence of “smart alecs” in the European Commission who had pushed for “market-based” pricing, an obvious dig at EU efforts to extend competitors in gas markets the place Russia dominates provides. 

Other elements have additionally tightened the market, together with a steep drop in home European manufacturing this 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, larger demand for gas over extremely polluting coal and Asian demand for liquefied pure gas cargoes.

Energy executives have warned that costs may stay elevated over the winter, to the purpose the place some energy-intensive industries may have to limit output and family payments may rise.

The US has lengthy opposed NS2, however the Biden administration reached a truce in July with Germany that obliges Berlin to impose sanctions on Russia ought to it “weaponise” the pipeline in opposition to Ukraine or different allies. Biden’s administration had earlier lifted sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the Gazprom-owned pipeline operator.

Officials in Kyiv and neighbouring Poland have staunchly criticised the US-German settlement on grounds that it supplies no concrete ensures on safety or future Russian gas circulation by way of Ukraine and different japanese European international locations.

Hochstein spoke throughout a go to to Kyiv the place he held talks with Ukrainian officers on implementing the US-German settlement in a strategy to tackle such considerations, in half by convincing Gazprom to lengthen the gas transit settlement via Ukraine past 2024. “My expectation is that the Russians will agree” to lengthen gas transit via Ukraine, Hochstein stated. Kyiv claims Russia has dragged its toes in prolonging a transit settlement.

Hochstein stated that whereas the US believed Russia had “been weaponising natural gas for many, many years” he stopped in need of saying Moscow had intentionally curtailed gas provides in latest months — an motion that might set off further sanctions in opposition to Moscow underneath the US-German settlement.

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