Europe is moving to a war economy base – Britain should too

There are suspicions that Brussels is abusing Article 122 and exploiting this crisis to take control of energy policy. It’s going to be a heated debate. Southern Europe has fresh and bitter memories of what happened in the eurozone banking crisis, when Berlin peddled a moral tale of profligate Club Med states (this only applied to Greece) and invoked moral hazard doctrine to induce punitive austerity measures enforce.

But the Commission is right about the urgency of cuts needed to refill gas storage ahead of winter. The menu is hard to fault: a one-degree cut in home thermostats; and a 19 degree limit in commercial offices and public buildings (11 BCM saved); shorter showers; Turn off devices instead of leaving them on standby.

“Do we have to leave the shop window lights on all night and turn the air conditioning down to 20 degrees?” asked Frans Timmermans, the EU’s net zero envoy. A quibble: why isn’t parasitic bitcoin mining included?

She wants a delay in the closure of nuclear power plants (top offender: Germany); a temporary suspension of state aid rules; and a waiver of the Industrial Emissions Directive to allow for more fuel switches, and so on.

After that comes industrial rationing, beginning with the least essential gas guzzlers. Glass dispensing will be restricted except for vials, syringes and the like. This also applies to chemicals, except for fertilizers. The goal is maximum gas savings with minimum GDP loss. Companies will fight back fiercely, so this will be like pulling teeth.

There is little choice but to capitulate to Putin. If these steps are not taken, the Covid-stricken EU risks sliding into a crisis with existential consequences. “We must not let this situation get out of hand,” Timmermans said.

Britain doesn’t buy much gas from Russia and produces half of its needs from domestic waters in the North Sea. But that alone will not save this country from serious problems if a full Russian shutdown occurs.

Fully integrated into Europe’s energy excesses, the UK has also contracted out winter storage to the Netherlands and Germany after, in a fit of globalist madness, it closed its main gas storage facility in Rough in 2018. The UK only has five days reserve.

The logic of renewable energy deployment is more gas storage, not less, as dispatchable gas (spike) plants are the complement to intermittent wind and solar power. Centrica has secured a license to reopen Rough – which will triple the UK’s total storage capacity – but there is still no agreement with the government on who will foot the bill. Is the Treasury blocking?

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