As much of Europe shivers under unusually low temperatures, it is not only the temperatures that are plummeting. The annual spat over gas supplies and price between Russia and Ukraine has worsened overnight with four countries now reporting a complete halt in supplies.

The government in Kiev has said that Gazprom, the Russian state gas company, had cut the flow by 60 per cent following Prime Minister Putin’s threat yesterday to punish Ukraine for allegedly stealing fuel it is supposed to allow to transit through its pipelines en route to Europe.

Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are all reporting severe gas shortages. “We are in a crisis situation,” the Bulgarian economy ministry said in a statement.

Austria said that supplies were down to just 10 per cent of the expected amount while Hungary said that the flow was below 20 per cent of usual rates and the Czech Republic reported shortfalls.

All these countries rely on gas from Russia delivered through Ukrainian pipelines. But they have built up substantial reserves for the winter following a similar dispute over payments in 2006.  Austria for example says it has enough gas reserves for three months.

Once again the dispute highlights the vulnerability of  European gas supplies, of which a quarter come from Russia and 80 per cent of which are pumped through Ukraine. What’s worse is that figure is expected to rise as North Sea gas reserves dwindle.

What is amazing is that the EU seems to have no long term strategy for a sustainable energy policy for tens of millions of people, other than relying on Russian gas for the foreseeable future. In the UK they are even building power plants that run on gas, with no idea where the gas will come from.

So once again it’s all power to Putin…


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