German minister criticizes “astronomical” natural gas prices in the United States

A photo of a burning natural gas flare near an oil pump jack at the New Harmony oilfield in the United States on June 19, 2022.

Luke Sharret | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Germany’s economy minister accused the United States and other “friendly” gas-supplying states of astronomical prices for their supplies, suggesting they were profiting from the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

“Some countries, including friends, sometimes reach astronomical prices [for their gas]. Of course, this leads to problems that we have to talk about,” said Economy Minister Robert Habeck. German regional newspaper NOZ in an interview published Wednesday and translated by NBC News. He called for more solidarity from the United States when it comes to helping its energy-stressed allies in Europe.

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“The United States contacted us when oil prices soared, and national oil reserves in Europe were tapped accordingly. I think such solidarity would also be good for reducing gas prices,” did he declare.

CNBC has contacted the White House for a response to the comments and is awaiting a response.

Habeck, co-leader of the German Green Party, which is part of the Berlin coalition government led by centre-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said the EU should also do more to deal with the gas crisis in the region. region, with countries scrambling for alternative supplies which has further pressure on prices, brought on by the war in Ukraine and deteriorating relations with Russia.

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Moscow’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom has cut supply to the bloc drastically in recent months, largely due to international sanctions and a desire to punish Europe – the EU imported around 45% of its gas supplies from Russia but seeks to stop all imports — for supporting Kyiv.

Habeck said the EU “should pool its market power and orchestrate smart, synchronized buying behavior by EU states so that EU countries don’t outbid and drive up prices.” world market price“.

European market power is “enormous”, just use it, he noted, according to the German outlet.

Europe is facing a harsh winter with gas shortages forecast across the region. Countries like Germany have been heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies for decades with massive energy infrastructure, such as the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, designed to deliver gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.

While the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline never even got started, with Germany refusing to certify the pipeline after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Nord Stream 1 has become a pawn in soured relations between Moscow and Brussels.

Over the summer, gas supplies through the pipeline stopped and started apparently at Moscow’s whim, although it invariably cited the need for maintenance and penalties as the reason for the shutdown. supply. But the supply then stopped in September.

More recently, energy links between Russia and Europe have literally been damaged, with Nord Stream pipelines leaking last month under suspicious circumstances.

Russia has denied sabotaging the pipelines, with reported underwater explosions damaging pipes in several places, sending natural gas gushing out of the Baltic Sea. The damage caused an international outcry, with the EU promising a “robust” response to attacks on its energy infrastructure.

James R. Rhodes