Europe's Energy Crisis Is Coming for The Rest of Us
Bloomberg Businessweek|October 04, 2021
Millions of people around the globe will feel the impact of soaring natural gas prices this winter
By Stephen Stapczynski

This winter, the world will be fighting over something that’s invisible, yet rarely so vital—and in alarmingly shorter supply.

Nations are more reliant than ever on natural gas to heat homes and power industry as they work to quit coal and increase the use of cleaner energy sources. But there isn’t enough gas to fuel the post-pandemic recovery and refill depleted stocks before the cold months. Countries are trying to outbid one another for supplies as exporters such as Russia move to keep more natural gas home. The crunch will get a lot worse when temperatures drop.

The crisis in Europe presages trouble for the rest of the planet as the continent’s energy shortage has governments warning of blackouts and factories being forced to shut.

Inventories at European storage facilities are at historically low levels for this time of year. Pipeline flows from Russia and Norway have been limited. That’s worrying as calmer weather has reduced output from wind turbines while Europe’s aging nuclear plants are being phased out or are more prone to outages—making gas even more necessary. No wonder European gas prices surged by almost 500% in the past year and are trading near record highs.

The spike has forced some fertilizer producers in Europe to reduce output, with more expected to follow, threatening to increase costs for farmers and potentially adding to global food inflation. In the U.K., high energy prices have forced several suppliers out of business.

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