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EU urges member states to protect the poor while also tackling high energy costs while reducing energy consumption

EU urges member states to protect the poor while also tackling high energy costs while reducing energy consumption

Faced with rising natural gas prices and a potentially long winter, European Union officials on Wednesday presented 'a package of policy suggestions' that aim to assist the blocs 27 member states in tackling the ongoing energy crisis while also protecting the most vulnerable.

The guidance, which several individual countries have already adopted, isn't as broad as some leaders have hoped. However, it is the EU's most significant collective action to address record high energy prices, which could slow the bloc' resumption from the coronavirus epidemic and undermine support for its transition away from fossil fuels.

The European Commission, the EUs executive arm, stated that member states should focus on preventing low-income households and small businesses from price increases. It said countries may do so without violating EU regulations by providing direct aid to vulnerable consumers or businesses, temporarily reducing taxes, allowing the deferral of bill payments, and implementing a safety net that ensures people won't have their power cut off.

Can I pay my next bill? How long will it last? What can be done? Their concern is understandable and justified, according to EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. Winter is coming.

Our answer to what should be done is twofold: First, our immediate priority is to protect Europes consumers, especially those who are the most in danger, she added. We must, secondly, make our energy system better prepared and more resilient so that we dont have to face a similar scenario in the future.

The commission said it would consider a new system of collectively buying and conserving gas reminiscent of how the bloc approached coronavirus vaccines.

Such a move would allow member states to work together in purchasing fuel and managing reserves, giving them more influence in negotiations with suppliers. However, the commission was unremitting on this front, saying only that it would examine the possible downsides of the scheme.

A more integrated European approach may potentially optimize costs and protect against price volatility, according to Simson.

While some countries have urged the bloc to move quicker and overhaul gas and electricity markets, the EU has a limited ability to directly influence the energy policies of its member states, and Simson said national governments are best positioned to take action. Officials said supply is not an immediate risk, but prices will likely remain high through the winter. The issue is likely to dominate a summit of EU leaders of state in Brussels next week.

In the midst of the energy crisis, the continent of Europe is not the only one. Across the English Channel, Britain is dealing with fuel shortages and panic buying at its gas stations, while India is running low on coal and China is rationing electricity.

The second-largest political group in the European Parliament is among those pushing for the commission to commit to more concrete measures, such as temporarily freezing electricity prices at their early 2021 levels. Dan Nica, a Romanian legislator from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, said in he didn't understand how these vulnerable Europeans would be protected from these high bills with only statements from The European Commission.

The global crisis is a result of pandemic-induced economic turbulence, in part. COVID-19 shut down the world, causing significant energy scarcity and price increases. But, while economies have recovered quickly, demand has skyrocketed, sending prices into blistering highs. At the same time, an unusually cold European winter last year drained supplies and weather patterns in the North Sea led to lower than anticipated wind turbine production.

But it also highlights the EUs reliance on energy imports. According to Aura Sabadus, a thinker for the Atlantic Council, Russia is the EUs primary supplier of oil, natural gas, and solid fossil fuels such as coal. This relationship puts Europe at risk of exploitation by Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Sabodus.

A group of EU lawmakers have said Russia may be limiting gas supplies to increase prices and pressure European regulators to speed up the approval of its Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea and has yet to be operational.

The European Commission is investigating Russias state-owned energy firm, Gazprom, over market manipulation allegations. In the document it released Wednesday, the EU said the Saint Petersburg-based gas giant had completed its long-term contracts with European clients but has provided little or no additional capacity to ease pressure on the European gas market.

Gazprom has begun to stabilize the market by utilizing its stockpiles, according to Kremlin officials, after Putin indicated last week that Russia would increase supply.

The rising prices have also heightened existing and long-standing tensions among EU leaders.

Premiers such as Viktor Orban, a prominent political rival to Putin, have blamed the rises on the bloc's broad-ranging measures to combat climate change, saying the EC must reconsider its ambitious ambitions.

Some analysts have suggested that the EU has moved too quickly away from fossil fuels and that it hasn't ensured that its members' will have an adequate supply of renewable fuel in case of an emergency.

Others have argued that the crisis only reinforces the need for initiatives like the European Green Deal, a set of proposals to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050.

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