What is Austrian government doing about coming Russian gas shortage?

Image by Alexey Hulsov from Pixabay

As if high inflation, high gas (petrol) prices and the threat of more mask mandates and lockdowns in the Fall aren’t enough to cause you stress, one of the big events that is likely to happen in Austria as we head into the colder months is a Russian gas shortage.

That is because subsequent Austrian governments over the last decade or more have put all their eggs in one basket and purchased most of Austria’s natural gas from Russia.

Now Russia has invaded Ukraine and the EU is retaliating, Russia is likely to reduce the amount of gas they sell to Russian-gas-dependent countries like Austria and Germany going forward.

After all, if you wanted to get back at the EU for instituting a plethora of sanctions like they have against Russia, wouldn’t you?

Meanwhile, Der Standard is reporting Russia has been sending more than 50% less gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe in the last few weeks because of (alleged) technical problems.

That decrease in the amount of Russian gas is likely to worsen even further as the colder months arrive.

What is the Austrian government doing about the coming Russian gas shortage then? And will it have a big impact on Austrian households?

 

What is the Austrian government doing about the coming Russian gas shortage?

Various crisis management meetings have been ongoing in the government of Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) over the last few weeks and months, as Austria’s government tries to figure out how to get the country out of the mass they have created.

One thing that has come out of those meetings so far is the reactivation of a coal plant in Styria.

The meetings have also been addressing what the government should do about gas in Austria if Russia cuts off its gas supply to Austria completely.

Something that could well happen should Putin and his co-horts become tired of Russia’s never-ending war and the sanctions being placed on the country because of it.

Firstly, Austria is looking at purchasing gas from countries like Norway. With governments of other countries that are also strapped for Russian gas also considering that option, however, it could mean the amount of gas available could be limited.

Secondly, while the Austrian government says they believe there will be enough gas for all Austrian households in the coming months, as long as people don’t go hog wild using it, it will probably mean industry and commerce will have to cut back their gas use.

This could, of course, have a negative impact on the Austrian economy as businesses have to operate fewer hours or produce fewer goods and services as a result of a shortage in their usual gas supply.

The government also believes there will be enough gas in Austria for hospitals, schools and childcare facilities.

Finally, if Russia was to cut Austria’s gas supply down to zero, then the government would implement its gas contingency plan.

This would mean:

  • Companies would be mandated to not only limit their consumption, but also trade the supply they did have that wasn’t be used to other companies that need it.
  • If Austria’s gas supply is still too low, then rationing would come into effect. This would start in Austria’s largest companies with the country’s 35 biggest corporations but, if this wasn’t enough, would then continue with the next 7,500 companies further down the chain.

Should the gas contingency plan and Austria’s current gas storage not be enough to cover everybody’s needs, the government admits, things could become quite difficult for both Austrian households and Austrian companies going forward.

In other words, limit the gas you consume now, so Austrian households don’t have to struggle when we get into the winter months and desperately need gas for heating and cooking.

Meanwhile, this is the Austrian Finance Minister, Magnus Brunner, two months ago explaining to Richard Quest at CNN why an EU gas embargo would be ‘catastrophic’ for Austria.

Rather than admitting “Yep, we f*cked up”.

 

Michelle Topham