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Germany faces natural gas ‘crisis,’ raises warning level

German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speakes during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN — Germany activated the second phase of its three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies Thursday, warning that Europe’s biggest economy faces a “crisis” and storage targets for the winter are at risk after Russia reduced energy deliveries to several countries.

The government said the decision follows cuts Russia made to natural gas flows starting last week and surging energy prices stoked by the war in Ukraine. Industrial customers are being asked to reduce the amount of natural gas they use, and Germany and other countries are turning back to coal as a replacement, threatening climate goals in Europe as energy tensions escalate between Russia and the West.

“Even if we can’t feel it yet — we are in a gas crisis,” Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck said.

Russia last week reduced natural gas to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia just as European Union countries are scrambling to refill storage of the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry and heat homes in the winter. Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom blamed a missing part sent to Canada for repairs as it cut flows by 60% through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline running under the Baltic Sea to Germany — Europe’s major natural gas pipeline.

Other countries, including Austria and the Netherlands, also have launched first-stage warnings about supplies and urged people to conserve. Germany and Italy, two of Europe’s biggest buyers of Russian gas, have called Russia’s gas reductions politically motivated and warned they could further slow the economy.

“We are in an economic conflict with Russia,” said Habeck, accusing Moscow of trying to destroy European unity and the solidarity it has shown with Ukraine.

The cutbacks come on top of gas shutoffs to Poland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France and the Netherlands in recent weeks.

Germany’s government said current gas demands are being met and its storage facilities are filled to 58% capacity — higher than at this time last year. But the goal of reaching 90% by December won’t be possible without further measures, it said.

Germany would not react by cutting off neighboring countries, Habeck said. Instead, it was urging industry and residents to reduce their consumption as much as possible.

“The prices are already high, and we need to be prepared for further increases,” Habeck said, warning that “this will affect industrial production and…

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