While Britain bakes in a heatwave, politicians in Germany are worrying about the winter. The Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom has notified its European customers that it can no longer guarantee the supply of fuel due to ‘extraordinary’ circumstances. In Berlin, politicians and regulators are preparing for an ice-cold Christmas, drawing up lists for rationing priorities and emergency plans to stop the population freezing.
Entertainment and frivolities will be the first things to go, while newspapers and medical production will be prioritised alongside households and hospitals. Mothballed coal power plants are being prepared for reactivation. Some local governments are planning to turn public buildings into ‘warming halls’ for those unable to heat their homes or turn off traffic lights, setting up ‘industrial-scale dormitories’.
The most heated debate is whether the government should prioritise residential consumption over the economy. While current plans aim to sacrifice economic output in favour of keeping homes warm, industry groups are pushing back, claiming a shutdown would be the ‘worst crisis since the second world war’. The charity Caritas has also come out against the plans, warning that gas is needed ‘to produce basic foodstuffs like milk and essential medicines’, and ‘blood reserves for the gravely injured’. One set of estimates reckoned a full shutdown would cost Germany 2 per cent of GDP and 400,000 jobs; another put the cost closer to 12 per cent of output.
Take a step back and appreciate the insanity of these paragraphs. A 21st century European country is warning households to prepare for rolling power cuts as the state attempts to keep the economy functioning without fuel. Housing associations are already rationing hot water and heating as prices rise; a full shut-down would be exponentially worse.
The Nord Stream 1 pipeline carrying gas from Russia to Germany is currently down for scheduled maintenance, with supplies scheduled to resume on Thursday.