2006-01-02

Gas excitement

Happy New Year folks. Peace and Good Will to all people. Now read on...

Gas delivery is in the news here, not a usual topic even in winter. But the shut-off by Russia of the Ukraines gas supply is having interesting consequences. So far they are only interesting, hopefully they won't get worrying. Refs for this: Guardian and again and more; and the BBC.

The story so far... the EU imports 40% of its gas; the UK, 10%, since the North Sea is starting to run out. Russia exports a lot, but recently decided that the Ukraine ought to pay full market price instead of being subsidised (which is sort-of a pay-off for them cosying up to Nato and the EU and stuff; though exactly why the Ukraine should be subsidised I'm not sure; anyway, thats all the politics bit). Ukraine refused, Russia turned off the taps (in some sense). The complicating bit is that a lot of EU gas goes via Ukraines pipelines; the Russians (in absolutely direct terms) have accused the Ukrainians of diverting some of this and stealing it. Meanwhile the Ukraine accused Russia of resorting to "blackmail" in order to undermine Ukraine's economy.

Now France, Italy, Germany and Poland have reported shortages because of Russias actions and are understandably p*ss*d off; its not clear whether the Russian text is designed to divert blame. The EU have called on Russia and the Ukraine to resume discussions; the US seems to be leaning on Russia a bit.

None of this has much to do with climate or science, of course. But it does give some taste of the unpleasantness that might happen when gas supplies really start to run out. It may also affect the should-we-build-more-nukes debate. No-one wants to be left cold in the winter.

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