Germany is preparing to abandon Russian gas. But a quick cut will hurt. 2022-04-28 14:57:06

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A day after Russia cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, German Chancellor Olaf Schulz said Thursday that his country should be prepared for the possibility that Germany could be next.

Mr Schulz’s government and the German energy industry have emphasized in recent days that the country’s gas supply remains adequate. As Russian gas continues to flow inland, storage facilities are slowly being replenished after winter, when gas demand is greatest, and a third is currently filled. In recent weeks, the economy minister said efforts to secure gas from other countries had resulted in a one-third reduction in the amount of gas coming from Russia.

Earlier this year, the government began a review process that could, if necessary, impose gas rationing. But if Russia stops the flow of gas to Germany, the Economy Ministry recently reported to parliament, the situation could quickly become critical.

“We must be prepared for that,” Mr. Schultz told reporters in Tokyo, where he was visiting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to cement relations between the two countries. Japan, which like Germany is an energy-poor industrial power, also struggling To ensure that it has an adequate supply of natural gas.

At the start of the war, Germany relied on Russia for 55 percent of its natural gas needs. Since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24, the country has reduced that amount to 35 percent by canceling some contracts and importing more liquefied natural gas, or liquefied natural gas, from other countries.

German officials said they hope by the end of the year to withdraw less than a third of the country’s gas from Russia.

However, Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, warned last week that a ban on Russian gas could cause the country’s economic output to fall by as much as 5% this year. Schulz and his finance minister also warned that an immediate cut off of Russian gas could push the economy into recession.

Tens of thousands of jobs could be threatened in German gas-powered industries, including chemical and steel.

Almost half of homes in Germany are heated by natural gas. If rationing becomes necessary, priority will be given to private homes, along with basic infrastructure such as hospitals, in case of shortages.

The government has also focused on refilling natural gas storage facilities that were left nearly empty as winter approached, some of which were in the hands of Russian companies. Germany took control of the storage tanks after the beginning of April on the grounds of national security.

Since then, it has been slowly and steadily refilling the facilities, aiming to ensure they reach 90 per cent of their capacity by December 1, in line with new EU law put in place to ensure adequate levels of gas supply.

Robert Habeck, Germany’s Minister of Economy, is working to find alternative suppliers of coal and oil that Germany imports from Russia. None of the fossil fuels is as important to the country’s energy supply as gas, with only 25 percent of coal and 35 percent of oil coming from Russian fields at the start of the year.

Mr Habek said this week, after a trip to Poland he said it was part of the government’s “step-by-step, creation and fulfillment of conditions” strategy to achieve independence from Russia.

Now we’ll do the same with gas, said Mr. Habek.

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