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Jerusalem, Israel – In Italy last Saturday, people burned their electricity and gas bills; on the same day in the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, 70,000 people protested against the government’s approach to soaring consumer prices; and, on Tuesday in Britain, incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss vowed to address the energy crisis immediately and tackle the soaring cost of living.
For decades, Europe has relied overwhelmingly on Russia for fossil fuels to run its factories, generate electricity and heat its homes. Now, in the countries of the continent, citizens and governments alike are feeling the bitter impact of Moscow’s six-month war in Ukraine, which has already caused a shortage in gas supply, driving up the prices of everyday goods. and leaving people struggling to keep their homes warm and families fed.
A combination of sanctions imposed by the West on Russia due to its continued aggression in Ukraine and the rabid push back of Russia, combined with two years of pandemic arrests, extreme weather conditions and a host of other factors, are now sparking fears of a even worse shortages of gas, electricity and basic food as Europe heads into the cold winter months.
“There is a real sense of crisis because Europe’s energy supply, which was largely provided by Russia, is now limited,” Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, told Fox News Digital.
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“There is a general fear in Europe that we could run out of gas over the winter that is leading to storage, firstly to make sure countries have as much gas in their depots as possible, and secondly many countries. they are looking at how they can limit the use of electricity to make it last all winter, “he said.
In addition, Europe is also evaluating alternative energy sources from Norway to North Africa to the Mediterranean basin to ensure it closes the shortage this year and ends its dependence on Russia once and for all.
“What we’re seeing now is a result of what happens when you rely on a rogue state for energy,” said David Patrikarakos, contributing editor of Unherd and author of “War in 140 Characters”.
“Just as COVID taught us that we cannot rely on a rogue state, China, for our supply chains, so this is telling us that we cannot rely on a rogue state like Russia for our energy needs. “, he said, adding:” This was inevitable because a state like Russia will eventually always behave this way and therefore all the vulnerabilities we rely on will be exploited and used for blackmail, as is happening now. “
Russia’s response to Europe’s withdrawal from its energy sources has been to reduce its gas supplies in hopes of ending the sanctions. On Sunday, state-owned energy giant Gazprom cut off natural gas supplies via a major pipeline to Germany citing a gas leak. Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, made it clear that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which pumps gas from St. Petersburg to Germany via the Baltic Sea, will only resume operation when sanctions against Moscow are lifted.
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However, European governments seem determined not to go back to Russian sources despite the surge in inflation and rising consumer prices that have sparked protests in France, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.
Seeking to alleviate civic unrest, governments have begun to enact a series of measures. In Portugal on Tuesday, the government announced a $ 2.4 billion package for families in need; in Germany, $ 64.3 billion was planned this week for the same purpose.
Next Friday, EU energy ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss a package of block-level solutions, with European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson telling The Associated Press that a temporary ceiling of the price of gas used to produce electricity, changes in trade rules on energy trading and coordinated measures to reduce demand could be among the new measures.
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“I think everyone recognizes that a crisis is underway. It’s not like this came out of nowhere, we’ve seen it grow,” Mendoza said. “I think that a careful act of balancing between governments and citizens will now be necessary, with governments demonstrating that they are doing as much as possible and citizens accepting that they cannot do everything”.
Whether that will be enough depends largely on the coming winter, he said.
“If it is cold, this situation could get a lot worse,” Mendoza said, adding: “I think everyone in Europe knows what we are facing and everyone will have to look at their energy consumption and understand how they will limit their energy consumption to keep low. your bills “.