Europe is looking to cut all Russian gas ties

While an April cold spell in Western Europe has sent temperatures diving nearly 30 degrees Fahrenheit below normal, public campaigns to wean the European Union from its dependence on Russian energy have urged citizens to lower their thermostats, don “Pullovers against Putin” and “Freeze for Ukraine.”

Margrethe Vestager, vice president of the European Commission, further urged EU citizens to take shorter showers. “When you turn off the water, say ‘Take that, Putin!’” she said last week, referring to President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Similar sentiments have been echoing across Europe since Putin greenlighted a military invasion of Ukraine in late February, and have only been amplified as evidence of Russian atrocities against civilians continues to emerge.

President Vladimir Putin, hands clasped, at a conference table, with pencils and a pen at his side.
President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on agriculture by video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on April 5. (Mikhail Klimentyev/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

“Buying Russian oil and gas is financing war crimes,” Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said this week, as Lithuania, along with Latvia and Estonia, announced that it was halting all energy imports from Russia.

Reversing the course is no easy matter, however, given that the 27-country EU spends roughly $300 million on Russian energy every single day.

The rapid about-face in attitudes toward drawing on Russian resources, which, earlier this year, was regarded simply as a given in the EU energy equation, is prompting the EU bloc to attempt to voluntarily reduce Russian fossil fuel purchases by two-thirds this year and phase them out altogether by 2030. Unlike the U.S., however, the EU has not yet imposed sanctions on Russia’s gas and oil sector.

Whether because of the prospect of future embargoes, Putin’s whims, or the high demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG), the potential scarcity of gas in Europe is now considered a crisis. This has spurred calls to speed up the deployment of solar and wind energy facilities that are key to Europe’s Green Deal, the world’s most ambitious proposed transition to renewables, whose goal is to see the EU carbon neutral by 2050.

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, jumped into the conversation while visiting Berlin this week, tweeting on Monday that “Spain should build a massive solar array. Could power all of Europe.”

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