Macron says Putin is using gas as a ‘weapon of war’ amid rationing fears
FFrench President Emmanuel Macron has accused Russia of using energy as a “weapon of war” as the chief executive of oil and gas giant Shell warned that gas rationing in Europe this winter was possible.
Mr Macron told citizens yesterday to ‘prepare for a scenario where we will have to manage completely without Russian gas’.
“Summer, early fall will be very tough,” he said. “Russia uses energy, as it uses food, as a weapon of war.”
He said the government would prepare a “sobriety plan” to save energy, which would start by turning off public lights at night when not in use.
“We need general mobilization,” Macron said in a televised address for July 14.
Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Shell, echoed the French president’s remarks, saying Russia had shown it was “able and willing to militarize energy supplies”.
Mr van Beurden said Moscow had “surprised” the market and told governments to be prepared for the Kremlin to further restrict gas.
“For a long time we thought it was not in Russia’s interest to cut off its biggest market and make the European market forever suspicious of Russian supplies,” he said. he said Thursday at the Aurora Spring Conference in Oxford.
“I think so [Europe] will be better advised to consider very important contingency plans. This [would] be reckless in my mind that governments are only waiting for the eleventh hour to prepare for this.
Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have already started to activate the first stages of emergency plans aimed at reducing energy consumption and discussions are underway at the highest level within the EU on the efforts to reduce demand during the winter.
Mr van Beurden says: “Some companies will do better than others, but I think we will all face a very significant price increase. So there will be a lot of pressure in the industry, and therefore, there will be a lot of price pressure.
“And in the worst case, we will be in a situation where we have to ration ourselves.”
At the same event, Kwasi Kwarteng, UK business secretary, urged households to use “common sense” when it comes to energy use.
Europe typically gets around 40% of its gas from Russia, but the Kremlin has limited sales to several European buyers in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine.
There are growing fears that Vladimir Putin will go further with supply cuts in a bid to prevent Europe from filling up its stocks of vital gases before winter.
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which carries up to 10% of Europe’s gas under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, is currently closed for maintenance and European governments fear Russia may find an excuse not to reopen it .
Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, warned on Thursday that a “serious” situation in which Moscow is turning off the taps has become “more than just a hypothesis”.
A shutdown “would drive the EU economy into recession in the second half of this year and further depress economic activity next year,” Gentiloni added.
Gazprom, Russia’s state gas company, said Wednesday it could not guarantee the safe operation of the pipeline due to doubts over the return of a turbine held in Canada under sanctions. Canada says it is authorizing the return of the turbine.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that the pipeline’s future would depend on gas demand in Europe and Western sanctions against Russia.
The UK receives less than 4% of its supply directly from Russia, but is exposed to the knock-on effects of the European market, namely soaring prices.
Mr Kwarteng has prepared contingency plans for tight energy supplies over the winter, including keeping coal-fired power stations online for backup.
His ‘common sense’ comments mark a shift in tone from the UK government which has sought to avoid recommending energy-saving measures recommended in the EU, such as lowering thermostats or driving less.
He said he had never seen people use more electricity than they needed, adding: “When you look back 30 years, we’ve all used a lot more electricity at home. era than we do now.”
The EU’s exposure to Russian gas supplies was “much greater”, he added.
Shell had a major presence in Russia until the war, including a stake in a liquefied natural gas project in the Far East and service stations, but is now leaving the country.
Mr van Beurden said Mr Putin had ‘shown that we should take him seriously when he makes threats’.