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Germany fears that Russia will permanently close the main gas pipeline


Germany’s economy minister said he couldn’t be sure Russia would resume shipments through a key gas pipeline after scheduled maintenance next month, raising the prospect of a further spike in prices and of rationing this winter.

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(Bloomberg) – Germany’s economy minister said he couldn’t be sure Russia would resume shipments through a key gas pipeline after scheduled maintenance next month, raising the prospect of a new soaring prices and rationing this winter.

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“I would have to lie if I said that I am not afraid of that,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Thursday evening in an interview with the public broadcaster ZDF. His concerns were echoed on Friday by Klaus Mueller, the head of the federal networks agency, who said streams over the Nord Stream 1 link may not restart even after the end of the 10-day maintenance period beginning on 11 July.

Mueller also warned that prices for consumers could triple and urged households and businesses to put money aside and save energy where possible.

“If we have a very, very cold winter, if we’re careless and way too generous with gasoline, it won’t be pretty,” Mueller said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD.

Germany on Thursday raised the country’s gas risk level to the second-highest “alarm” phase, one step below the third and final “emergency” phase that would involve state control over the distribution.

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Habeck warned of a potential meltdown in energy markets and drew a comparison to the role of US bank Lehman Brothers in triggering the financial crisis.

Nord Stream is the main pipeline delivering gas from Russia to Europe’s biggest economy, which still depends on the country for more than a third of its supplies. An alternative route is subject to Russian sanctions and therefore not used, and Moscow is also reducing flows to Europe via Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reduced flows to Europe in apparent retaliation for sanctions imposed following his invasion of Ukraine. The standoff escalated last week after Gazprom PJSC cut shipments through Nord Stream, leaving it at just 40% capacity and putting Germany’s winter supplies at risk.

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“The signal from yesterday with the alarm level is not that we now watch helplessly and stare at the snake like the infamous rabbit,” Mueller said.

“It’s up to us now,” he added. “It means the industry with all its substitution and economy options. This means private households, which finally seem to have woken up.

Habeck also tries to lead by example. He told Der Spiegel magazine in an interview published Friday that he had “considerably shortened” his shower time.

“In the summer I really don’t like being in air-conditioned rooms, and in the winter I use the heating sparingly,” Habeck said. “Besides, I come home late, get up at six and leave at seven. So you don’t need to heat at all in winter.

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