Are cities in Europe cold and dark due to lack of Russian gas?

It’s been wisely mentioned already, but I watched the Vice Chair of the International Panel on Climate Change discuss the issue. She really emphasized the ‘good fortune’ of the mild winter affecting most of Europe right now:

I’d rather that (Europe get to) be lucky than good – in this regard, at least.

NB: Canada has some of the lowest energy costs outside of the middle east.
So take the pain you’re experiencing, multiply it by four and you’re approaching the cost per kW in the UK.

I thought heating pellets came from waste product at lumber mills.

AIUI, Russia is pretty clued in to climage-change realities as far as impacts on their planned development of Arctic oil reserves are concerned, at least.

The tonnage of wood chips used by power stations converted from burning coal are huge. There is a debate about whether these bio fuels are carbon neutral. They are no doubt shipped using bulk carrier ships burning low grade bunker oil. Do the carbon neutral numbers add up or is this greenwashing by industries anxious to preserve their existing investment by switching the fuel.

A similar debate is going on in the gas business about how Hydrogen is made. The processes comes in a lot of different colours depending on the energy used and CO2 created and only one of these is green.

There was even a time, not so long ago, when diesel engines were regarded as a lower carbon producing engines deserving of tax concessions.

Balance sheets versus ice sheets.

The effects of Brexit on the economy, which was a political decision internal to the UK. Versus the massive borrowing to deal with the Covid pandemic lockdowns and the international energy crisis caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. These were both huge events that had a cause that was external and cannot be blamed directly on the UK government.

Brexit may have been a foolhardy policy akin to shooting yourself in the foot. But the country can still hobble around trying to fix the damage to the economy from these far bigger global events.

The reckoning will come much later, when questions will be asked about why the economy is recovering so slowly and why there is a massive skills shortage. Comparisons will be made with EU countries of a similar size. Until then Covid and Putin are two very useful ‘Get out of Jail free’ cards in the game of political monopoly.

There may be delays in this being reflected in home heating bills, but things are looking much brighter. I found a Natural Gas futures contract for U.K. delivery, and the price has indeed collapsed just like the Louisiana price. The wholesale price peaked at 875p in August, it was as high as 345p in early December, but it is now 161p. It’s now lower than it was last winter, pre-Ukraine.

GWM00 | ICE UK Natural Gas Continuous Contract Overview | MarketWatch

It’s still much higher than it was pre-2021, but the panic and fear of people freezing in their homes is over. Putin has failed, Europe now has another year to work on power infrastructure and independence from Russian energy supplies before next winter. There is a lot to be done longer term, of course, but I have some degree of faith in human ingenuity, and I think this will strengthen Europe in the long run.

I’m surprised that the press hasn’t reported this well in the U.K. I guess headlines of impending doom get more clicks. This looks like a fairly balanced take on it:

But remember that the UK has less extreme weather: no bitter cold like Canada, and no scorching heat like Canada–so a UK citizen is going to be using less energy than a Canadian.

My gas bill here in Washington state has tripled over what it was a year ago. My energy bill (natural gas and electricity) for December of 2021 was '$101. This past December was $279. And the price of electricity went down too. We were thinking about switching over a gas oven but we canceled those plans.

Unfortunately, a warmer winter is not certain due to climate change. Polar outbreaks have become more common due to the weakening of the polar vortex. And that weakening is very likely caused by climate change. So Europe is lucky they did not get a polar outbreak this winter. At least so far; there’s another couple months when one could happen.

The best thing about this situation is that it’s accelerating the electrification of the economy in Europe. Especially the replacement of gas furnaces with heat pumps.

The market for air and ground sourced heat pumps is tiny in the UK. Lots of poorly insulated homes with central heating provided by a boiler or heat furnace is the norm. Not a good place to start. It requires a cunning plan…

It is quite the opposite in France where they heat using electricity from a fleet of nuclear power stations. The UK made a ‘dash for Gas’ in the 1970s because of gas fields discovered under the North Sea and built an extensive domestic gas network for cooking and heating and fuelling power stations. France, with a similar population, is electrified and went for nukes.

All countries have their own strategic energy policy. What seemed like a good idea in the past has suddenly been turned upside down for most of central and eastern Europe with the loss of cheap Russian gas.

But we have been here before. Those strategic decisions were made as a result of the Middle East Oil crisis of the 1970s. Now we have the Russian Gas crisis of the 2020s.

The UK and many other countries neighbouring the North Sea are building offshore wind farms at a furious rate. It is not the whole answer, but they are easy to build and they provide some kind of energy security and the electricity is cheap.

Natural Gas will be used for many years to transition to cheaper renewables. The prices will settle down and the panic will be over.

We might even see the development of an international electricity super grid.

Left hand/right hand thinking, I’d bet. The Bureau of Arctic Exploitation not talking to the Bureau of Mother Russia Defense.

And that’s the sort of thing that can be relatively easily fixed by just throwing money at the problem. I recall as a kid in the 70s and 80s just after the oil crisis, there was a big push on in Canada to improve insulation in all the old homes built when oil heating was cheap. We had government rebates programs to offset the costs, free inspections to help figure out what to fix, things like that. Lots of TV ads about such programs to get the word out.

Thats what they want you to think. In reality, pellet mills have destroyed land, water, air and human lives. Here is a photo documentary produced by cnn

Data point from the Netherlands: here the government is asking people to keep their thermostats low (max. 19°C; I keep it at 18°), take short showers (5 minutes max) instead of baths, and have a generally increased level of awareness about the use of energy.

Lots of people have been installing solar panels in their homes at a rather furious pace (the government has been giving subsidies for that as well), and many people are planning to invest in better thermal insulation for their homes.

The Netherlands is also building quite a lot of renewables.

Additionally, the Netherlands happens to have the biggest gas field in Europe. They had been closing it throughout the past years (not in a small part because Russian gas was cheaper), and they had planned to close all the remaining wells during this year. But then Putin did his thing, and the Dutch government did a 180 on the subject. They are keeping all the active wells open, and they are reopening wells that had already been closed. There is still plenty of gas in that field, and right now the Netherlands can supply gas to Western Europe without too much trouble. Between the Dutch gas fields and the North Sea gas (mostly Norwegian), things are under control on that front at the moment.

On the south “front”, Spain gets its gas from North Africa via pipeline, and a connexion with the pipelines of the rest of the continent via France can help send those supplies as well.

High energy prices are mostly coming, as someone already said, from the fact that the gas supplies being used now are the ones that were bought at top prices. In the meantime, the prices for new supplies have come down dramatically.

All this (awareness on the part of the general population, diversification of suppliers, investment in renewables…) makes me reasonably optimistic for the future. The fact that Putin had his big blackmail scheme backfire so gloriously is the cherry on top.

Everything in this paragraph also applies to Germany. There have been appeals and public campaigns for conserving energy here since the first oil crisis in the early seventies, and in the meantime rather environmentally arguments rose for the cause, but the Ukrainian war triggered energy awareness even a notch further.

According to this graph (granted: last data 2019) the biggest buyer of Saudi oil is by far Asia, followed by North America, then Europe. So somebody else is punishing poor countries more than us, if buying from Saudi Arabia is punishing poor countries. And don’t get me started on Venezuela…

Climate change is statistically relevant, but individual data points are not clearly attributable to global warming. We had a really cold spell of weather in Central Europe in december, about two weeks long, the rest of the winter has been and still is very mild. The warmest january I remember! As Napoleon said (who suffered from a very cold campaign in Russia): I want my generals to be lucky. So far we seem to be.

It has been promoted for years, but now people are listening more and acting more (I have at least anecdotical evidence). Heat pumps are being sold like never before (long waiting times to get one, actually), solar panels are booming (yes, it would be better to set them up in Southern Europe than in Germany and build a trans-european grid), people and business are lowering the thermostates and insulating better. It remains a long term exercise: many old buildings are hard to retrofit, old cars are not being scrapped all at once… but something is getting done. It is not all thanks to Putin and the price Ucraine is paying is enormous, but on a good day I appreciate the irony: F*ck you, Putin!

Answering the OP directly: energy is more expensive, but not exorbitant. It’s harder for the poor than for the rich. The cities are not dark, there was even some Christmas lightning, people are not freezing. It is not all dandy, but previous energy crisis were worse. I hope it does not get much worse.

This is very misleading. Although there are certain peculiarities of getting it delivered to the right place, much more so with natural gas than with oil, there is a global market for fuel. When there is a shortage, the price goes up everywhere. The Gulf States are not refusing to sell their fuel to poorer countries, they are just selling their fuel at the current market price - which is higher. And Europe is not responsible for that, Putin is responsible.

I thought it might be interesting to look at how Russian state propaganda is portraying how things are going in Europe, or at least how they wish things were going. RT (Russia Today) put out a video on Christmas Eve - Russian State TV Releases ‘Anti-Russian Christmas’ Message for Europeans (

Russian state TV released a Christmas message to Europe recently amid Moscow’s faltering invasion of Ukraine.

RT highlighted the rising cost of oil in a new propaganda video, which aimed to illustrate the effects of rising energy prices on Europeans.

The video—first reported by BBC’s Francis Scarr on Twitter on Friday—starts off by showing a scene from Christmas 2021, in which a young girl received a pet hamster wearing a bow for Christmas, while the holiday classic “Silent Night” plays in the background.

One year later, the girl’s father is seen creating a contraption for the hamster to generate electricity for the family, presumably because the cost of powering and heating their home has become too expensive due to sanctions against Russia. The hamster, running on a wheel, creates energy to light the Christmas tree as the family sits on a couch, dressed in coats and earmuffs.

The video then cuts to Christmas 2023, when the family, now appearing to live in poverty, is eating their Christmas dinner when the father finds the hamster’s bow in his soup, implying they were forced to cook the pet for a holiday meal.

“Merry ‘anti-Russian’ Christmas! If your media doesn’t tell you where this is all going, RT is available available by VPN,” text displayed at the end of the video reads, revealing it as an advertisement for the Kremlin-tied news outlet.

Pure propaganda, of course, but damn! That campaign would make Don Draper proud.