even tougher winter next year as natural gas stocks are used up and as new supplies to replace Russian gas, including increased shipments from the United States or Qatar, are slow to come online, the International Energy Agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook, released last week.

Europe’s activity appears to be accelerating a global transition toward cleaner technologies, the I.E.A. added, as countries respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by embracing hydrogen fuels, electric vehicles, heat pumps and other green energies.

But in the short term, countries will be burning more fossil fuels in response to the natural gas shortages.

gas fields in Groningen, which had been slated to be sealed because of earthquakes triggered by the extraction of the fuel.

Eleven countries, including Germany, Finland and Estonia, are now building or expanding a total of 18 offshore terminals to process liquid gas shipped in from other countries. Other projects in Latvia and Lithuania are under consideration.

Nuclear power is winning new support in countries that had previously decided to abandon it, including Germany and Belgium. Finland is planning to extend the lifetime of one reactor, while Poland and Romania plan to build new nuclear power plants.

European Commission blueprint, are voluntary and rely on buy-ins from individuals and businesses whose utility bills may be subsidized by their governments.

Energy use dropped in September in several countries, although it is hard to know for sure if the cause was balmy weather, high prices or voluntary conservation efforts inspired by a sense of civic duty. But there are signs that businesses, organizations and the public are responding. In Sweden, for example, the Lund diocese said it planned to partially or fully close 150 out of 540 churches this winter to conserve energy.

Germany and France have issued sweeping guidance, which includes lowering heating in all homes, businesses and public buildings, using appliances at off-peak hours and unplugging electronic devices when not in use.

Denmark wants households to shun dryers and use clotheslines. Slovakia is urging citizens to use microwaves instead of stoves and brush their teeth with a single glass of water.

website. “Short showers,” wrote one homeowner; another announced: “18 solar panels coming to the roof in October.”

“In the coming winter, efforts to save electricity and schedule the consumption of electricity may be the key to avoiding electricity shortages,” Fingrad, the main grid operator, said.

Businesses are being asked to do even more, and most governments have set targets for retailers, manufacturers and offices to find ways to ratchet down their energy use by at least 10 percent in the coming months.

Governments, themselves huge users of energy, are reducing heating, curbing streetlight use and closing municipal swimming pools. In France, where the state operates a third of all buildings, the government plans to cut energy use by two terawatt-hours, the amount used by a midsize city.

Whether the campaigns succeed is far from clear, said Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, a European think tank. Because the recommendations are voluntary, there may be little incentive for people to follow suit — especially if governments are subsidizing energy bills.

In countries like Germany, where the government aims to spend up to €200 billion to help households and businesses offset rising energy prices starting next year, skyrocketing gas prices are hitting consumers now. “That is useful in getting them to lower their energy use,” he said. But when countries fund a large part of the bill, “there is zero incentive to save on energy,” he said.

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Toll of Russian Strikes Mounts, Adding Urgency to Ukraine’s Pleas for Weapons

Credit…Jean-Francois Badias/Associated Press

PARIS — France began pumping natural gas directly to Germany for the first time on Thursday, part of a landmark agreement struck by both governments to help each other confront Europe’s energy crisis as Russia cuts off gas supplies to Europe.

Volumes of gas capable of producing around 31 gigawatt-hours per day of electricity began flowing early on Thursday into Germany, the French network operator GRTgaz said. The connection has a maximum capacity of 100 gigawatt-hours per day, equal to the power output of four nuclear reactors, or about 10 percent of the amount of liquefied natural gas that France imports each day, the company said.

GRTgaz said that months ago it had begun modifying its pipeline networks to be able to send gas to Germany. For years, the German economy has relied on Russian gas exports, but this year Moscow has slashed them in response to Western sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

France gets its gas from the Netherlands, Norway and Russia, according to the International Energy Agency, although supplies from Russia were cut off in September. It also receives deliveries of liquefied natural gas from several L.N.G. terminals.

To face the energy crunch, France has been storing gas and getting more of it from its European partners and Qatar. Recently, President Emmanuel Macron has burnished relations with Algeria, a former French colony, which has agreed to sharply increase gas exports to France.

In exchange for the gas from France, Germany has pledged to export more electricity to that country as it grapples with an unprecedented crisis in its nuclear power industry that has reduced power production.

“Germany needs our gas, and we need the electricity produced in the rest of Europe, and in particular in Germany,” President Emmanuel Macron said last month after speaking with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, about the agreement. “We will contribute to European solidarity in gas and benefit from European solidarity in electricity.”

“Merci beaucoup,” Klaus Müller, the head of Germany’s federal network agency, wrote in a Twitter message to GRTGaz on Thursday. “The gas deliveries from France, through Saarland, help Germany’s energy security.”

European countries have pledged to work together to get through winter as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine raises the prospect of a prolonged energy crisis. On Thursday, Spain proposed increasing its gas deliveries to France by 18 percent in the coming months, Spain’s ecological transition minister, Teresa Ribera, said.

As Europe’s largest economy and the one most dependent on Russian gas, Germany has been among the countries worst affected by the energy crisis rippling across Europe, where natural gas costs about 10 times what it did a year ago. Both Berlin and Paris have imposed a broad range of conservation measures, including lowering thermostats and hot water heaters, encouraging the use of public transport and requiring public buildings to turn off lights early.

The energy crunch has forced European governments to fall back on less-desirable power sources that they had been trying to phase out in a push to go green. Germany, for instance, has decided to keep coal-fired power plants online and restart several others that had been mothballed.

In addition, Germany decided to keep two of its three remaining nuclear power plants operational as an emergency reserve for its electricity supply, breaking a political taboo and delaying its plans to become the first industrial power to go nuclear-free for its energy.

And in France, the government is facing an energy crisis of its own after half its fleet of nuclear power plants — the largest in Europe — was taken offline earlier this year for inspections and repairs. The electricity shortage has driven prices to record levels, forcing factories to cut production and put tens of thousands of employees on furlough.

Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister, warned Thursday that high energy prices continued to pose a “major risk” to French industry and would lead to a 10 percent decline in industrial production this winter.

Berlin this month announced a 200 billion euro (about $196 billion) aid plan for German households, businesses and industries. It includes policies to curb natural gas and electricity prices domestically. And France has already spent around €100 billion since last winter doing the same.

But with Mr. Scholz facing pushback over his government’s decision to keep nuclear plants running, Germany’s ability to uphold its end of the energy-swap deal with France may wind up depending on the French themselves: GRTgaz said that the exported French gas would allow Germany to produce more electricity, which in turn would be sent back to the French grid during peak hours.

“If we did not have European solidarity,” Mr. Macron said in a televised interview on Wednesday, “we would have serious problems.”

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An Israel-Lebanon Border Deal Could Increase Natural Gas Supplies

Israel and Lebanon have been at war since 1948, but the countries are close to an agreement that could increase production of natural gas, helping energy-starved Europe.

Officials from the two countries have said they are close to resolving long-running disputes over their maritime borders, which would allow energy companies to extract more fossil fuels from offshore fields in the Mediterranean Sea.

The increased production won’t make up for the gas that Europe is no longer getting from Russia. But energy experts say an Israel-Lebanon agreement should give a vital push to efforts to produce more gas in that part of the world. Over the last four years, energy production in the eastern Mediterranean has been growing as Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Cyprus have worked together to take advantage of oil and gas buried under the sea.

“This is a very important step for the region to come into its own,” said Charif Souki, the Lebanese-American executive chairman of Tellurian, a liquefied natural gas company based in Houston. “Players are finally realizing that it’s better to cooperate than to continuously fight.”

The Israel-Lebanon negotiations will most directly affect the Karish field, which is set to produce gas for Israel’s domestic use. That fuel is expected to displace gas produced from other fields, which can then be exported. The new field is also expected to produce a small amount of oil.

Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil and gas company, and several smaller businesses are already producing gas from two larger fields off Israel’s coast. That fuel has increasingly replaced coal in the country’s power plants and factories. Israel now has so much gas that it has become a net exporter of energy, sending fuel to neighbors like Jordan and Egypt. Some of that gas has also found its way to Europe and other parts of the world from L.N.G. export terminals in Egypt.

The U.S. government, across several administrations, has encouraged the growth of the gas trade in the region by helping to negotiate deals between countries that have long had tense relations. The Ukraine crisis has accelerated efforts to explore and produce natural gas because of the soaring cost of the fuel in Europe, where countries are desperate to end their dependence on Russian gas.

Chevron and its Israeli partners are discussing the possibility of building a floating liquefied natural gas platform in the Leviathan gas field, Israel’s largest. The companies are expected to make a decision on the project in a few months.

But getting the gas out of the region will not be easy. Floating export terminals are vulnerable to terrorist attack. And, even if they could be adequately secured, the terminals will not be able to process as much gas as the larger coastal facilities used in major gas producers like the United States, Qatar and Australia. Building terminals on land can take several years, if not often longer, because of opposition from environmental and other groups.

“Energy infrastructure offshore is very volatile and vulnerable,” said Gal Luft, a former Israeli military officer who is the co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington. “You have to manage risk.”

Theoretically, transporting gas by pipelines would be easier than liquefying natural gas for export before converting it back into gas at its destination. But building long-distance pipelines is expensive and difficult. A long-running conflict between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece, for example, has made constructing a pipeline from Israel to southern Europe incredibly challenging, if not impossible.

Even an Israel-Lebanon border agreement faces risks. Hezbollah has threatened to attack the Karish field, and it sent unarmed drones over it in July; Israeli officials said they had shot down the ‌aircraft.

Still, Israeli and Lebanese officials have said in recent days that they are pressing on with the negotiations, with officials from the Biden administration acting as a go-between, and are close to a deal. The talks gathered momentum during the United Nations General Assembly last week.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon said on Thursday at the United Nations that he was confident about reaching an agreement with Israel. “Lebanon is well aware of the importance of the promising energy market in the eastern Mediterranean for the prosperity of all countries in the region,” he said, “but also to meet the needs of importing nations.”

U.S. and other Western oil companies have long shied away from Israel, in part because they do not want to alienate Arab countries. But, as relations between Israel and countries like Egypt, Jordan and, more recently, the United Arab Emirates have improved more companies have expressed interest in the eastern Mediterranean.

An agreement between Israel and Lebanon could accelerate that trend.

“I think it will appease many minds,” said Leslie Palti-Guzman, chief executive of Gas Vista, a consulting firm. “Companies that have been reluctant to invest could be more incentivized to develop additional projects.”

Gas fields in the Mediterranean are one of several new suppliers that Europe will need as it seeks a long-term replacement for Russian gas. Other suppliers include energy companies operating in the United States, Qatar, Africa, the Caspian Sea and the North Sea.

“There is no silver bullet,” said Paddy Blewer, spokesman for Energean, a London-based exploration company that hopes to begin producing gas in the Karish field. “The East Mediterranean is one of a series of marginal gains that Europe has to look at.”

Energean plans to begin production in the next few weeks, and has said it expects to produce up to 8 billion cubic meters of gas a year by 2025. If it is successful, the company could significantly add to Israel’s output. The country will produce roughly 22 billion cubic meters this year. Once an importer of almost all of its energy, Israel increased gas production by 22 percent in the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2021. It exported roughly 40 percent of its gas, earning the government royalties of $250 million.

The agreement between Israel and Lebanon will also open the way to drilling in Lebanese waters by a consortium led by Eni of Italy and TotalEnergies of France. Lebanese officials view natural gas as a critical financial tool in its attempts to revive the country’s depressed economy. The government has wanted to drill offshore since at least 2014, but disputes with Israel over the border have delayed exploration.

“It’s not for sure Lebanon will find gas,” said Chakib Khelil, a former president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. “But, if they do, Lebanon will get a big boost.”

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Qatar Detains Workers Protesting Late Pay Before World Cup

By Associated Press
August 22, 2022

The move comes as Qatar faces intense international scrutiny over its labor practices ahead of the tournament.

Qatar recently arrested at least 60 foreign workers who protested going months without pay and deported some of them, an advocacy group said, just three months before Doha hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The move comes as Qatar faces intense international scrutiny over its labor practices ahead of the tournament. Like other Gulf Arab nations, Qatar heavily relies on foreign labor. The workers’ protest a week ago — and Qatar’s reaction to it — could further fuel the concern.

The head of a labor consultancy investigating the incident said the detentions cast new doubt on Qatar’s pledges to improve the treatment of workers. “Is this really the reality coming out?” asked Mustafa Qadri, executive director of the group Equidem.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday night, Qatar’s government acknowledged that “a number of protesters were detained for breaching public safety laws.” It declined to offer any information about the arrests or any deportations.

Video footage posted online showed some 60 workers angry about their salaries protesting on Aug. 14 outside of the Doha offices of Al Bandary International Group, a conglomerate that includes construction, real estate, hotels, food service and other ventures. Some of those demonstrating hadn’t received their salaries for as many as seven months, Equidem said.

The protesters blocked an intersection on Doha’s C Ring Road in front of the Al Shoumoukh Tower. The footage matched known details of the street, including it having several massive portraits of Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, looking down on passers-by.

Al Bandary International Group, which is privately owned, did not respond to requests for comment and a telephone number registered in its name did not connect on multiple attempts to call it.

The Qatari government acknowledged that the firm hadn’t paid salaries and that its Labor Ministry would pay “all delayed salaries and benefits” to those affected.

“The company was already under investigation by the authorities for nonpayment of wages before the incident, and now further action is being taken after a deadline to settle outstanding salary payments was missed,” the government said.

Qadri said police later arrested the protesters and held them in a detention center where some described being in a stifling heat without air conditioning. Doha’s temperature this week reached around 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Qadri described police telling those held that if they can strike in hot weather, they can sleep without air conditioning.

One detained worker who called Equidem from the detention center described seeing as many as 300 of his colleagues there from Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nepal and the Philippines. He said some had been paid salaries after the protest while others hadn’t. His comments could not be corroborated.

Qatar, like other Gulf Arab nations, has in the past deported demonstrating foreign workers, and tied residency visas to employment. The right to form unions remains tightly controlled and available only to Qataris, as is the country’s limited right to assembly, according to the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House.

Qatar, a small, energy-rich nation on the Arabian Peninsula, is home to the state-funded Al Jazeera satellite news network. However, expression in the country remains tightly controlled. Last year, Qatar detained and later deported a Kenyan security guard who wrote and spoke publicly about the woes of the country’s migrant labor force.

Since FIFA awarded the tournament to Qatar in 2010, the country has taken some steps to overhaul the country’s employment practices. That includes eliminating its so-called kafala employment system, which tied workers to their employers, who had say over whether they could leave their jobs or even the country.

Qatar also has adopted a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($275) for workers and required food and housing allowances for employees not receiving that directly from their employers.

Activists like Qadri have called on Doha to do more, particularly when it comes to ensuring workers receive their salaries on time and are protected from abusive employers.

“Have we all been duped by Qatar over the last several years?” Qadri asked, suggesting that recent reforms might have been “a cover” for authorities allowing prevailing labor practices to continue.

The World Cup will start this November in Qatar.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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As Israel-Palestinian Truce Holds, Gaza Power Plant Restarts

Over three days of fighting, 44 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded. No Israelis were killed.

With a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants holding after nearly three days of violence, Gaza’s sole power plant resumed operations Monday as Israel began reopening crossings into the territory.

Israel also lifted security restrictions on southern Israeli communities after the Egyptian-mediated truce took effect late Sunday. Fighting abated, and war-weary people in Gaza and Israel were left picking up the pieces after another round of violence — the worst since an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas last year.

Since Friday, Israeli aircraft had pummeled targets in Gaza while the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.

Over three days of fighting, 44 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Islamic Jihad said 12 of those killed were militants. Israel said some of the dead were killed by rockets misfired from Gaza. No Israelis were killed.

The violence had threatened to spiral into another all-out war but was contained because Gaza’s ruling Hamas group stayed on the sidelines, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and undoing economic understandings with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents that bolster Hamas’ control over the coastal strip.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the group overran the territory in 2007. Hamas had a strong incentive to avoid more conflict, which has exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.

The outburst of violence in Gaza was a key test for Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who lacks experience leading military operations. He unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job — and may have gained political ground with it.

Israel began to reopen crossings into Gaza for humanitarian needs on Monday and said it would fully open them if calm is maintained. Fuel trucks were seen entering at the main cargo crossing headed for the power plant, which went offline Saturday after Israel closed the crossings into Gaza last week.

That added to misery at the height of summer heat in the territory, which is under a stifling Israeli-Egyptian blockade and suffers from a chronic power crisis that leaves residents with only a few hours of electricity a day.

Life for hundreds of thousands of Israelis was disrupted during the violence. Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted many of the rockets launched at Israel and no significant injuries were reported.

Israel launched its operation with a strike Friday on a leader of the Islamic Jihad, saying there were “concrete threats” of an anti-tank missile attack against Israelis in response to the arrest last week of another senior Islamic Jihad member in the West Bank. That arrest came after months of Israeli raids in the West Bank to round up suspects following a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israel.

It killed another Islamic Jihad leader in a strike on Saturday.

Both sides boasted of their successes. Speaking to reporters in Tehran on Sunday, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah said the militant group remained strong, despite losing two of its leaders. “This is a victory for Islamic Jihad,” he said.

Despite that claim, the group undoubtedly sustained a blow during the fierce offensive. Beyond losing the two leaders, it reduced its arsenal by firing hundreds of rockets.

Israel said some of the deaths in Gaza were caused by errant militant rocket fire, including in the Jebaliya refugee camp, where six Palestinians were killed Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a home in the same area of Jebaliya, killing two men. Palestinians held Israel responsible for the Sunday attack, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area was struck by misfired rockets.

The cease-fire deal contained a promise that Egypt would work for the release of two senior Islamic Jihad detainees held by Israel, but there were no guarantees this would happen. The weekend fighting was also bound to complicate Islamic Jihad’s relations with Hamas.

A senior Israeli diplomatic official said the offensive was successful and had taken Islamic Jihad’s capabilities back “decades,” citing the loss of the two leaders and hits to the group’s rocket production and firing capabilities, among other blows. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the operation with the media.

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the cease-fire.

“Over these last 72-hours, the United States has worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and others throughout the region to encourage a swift resolution to the conflict,” he said in a statement Sunday.

In the occupied West Bank on Monday, Israeli troops demolished the homes of two Palestinians suspected of carrying out a deadly attack against Israelis in the city of Elad in May. The soldiers faced a violent protest during the operation, the military said.

The U.N. Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting Monday on the violence. China, which holds the council presidency this month, scheduled the session in response to a request from the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab nations on the council, as well as China, France, Ireland and Norway.

“We underscore our commitment to do all we can towards ending the ongoing escalation, ensuring the safety and security of the civilian population, and following-up on the Palestinian prisoners file,” said U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, in a statement.

The Israeli army said militants in Gaza fired about 1,100 rockets toward Israel, with about 200 of them landing inside the Palestinian enclave. The army said its air defenses had intercepted 380 of them, including two fired toward Jerusalem. The military did not specify what happened to the remainder, but they likely fell in open areas or broke up in the air.

Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its arsenal. Both groups call for Israel’s destruction, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by the demands of governing.

Over the past year, Israel and Hamas have reached tacit understandings based on trading calm for work permits and a slight easing of the border blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas overran the territory 15 years ago. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gaza laborers, and has held out the prospect of granting another 2,000 permits.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Report: Prince Charles’ Charity Got Donation From Bin Ladens

By Associated Press
July 31, 2022

The donation in question, reportedly from Osama Bin Laden’s half-brothers in 2013, was in the amount of $1.2 million.

Britain’s Prince Charles is facing more questions over his charities after a newspaper reported that one of his funds accepted a $1.2 million donation from relatives of Osama bin Laden.

The Sunday Times reported that the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund received the money in 2013 from Bakr bin Laden, patriarch of the large and wealthy Saudi family, and his brother Shafiq. Both are half-brothers of the former al-Qaida leader, who was killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan in 2011.

The newspaper said advisers had urged the heir to the throne not to take the donation.

Charles’ Clarence House office disputed that but confirmed the donation had been made. It said the decision to accept the money was taken by the charity’s trustees, not the prince, and “thorough due diligence was undertaken in accepting this donation.”

The fund’s chairman, Ian Cheshire, also said the donation was agreed “wholly” by the five trustees at the time, and “any attempt to suggest otherwise is misleading and inaccurate.”

The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund was founded in 1979 to “transform lives and build sustainable communities,” and gives grants to a wide variety of projects in Britain and around the world.

Charles, 73, has faced a series of claims about the operation of his charities. Last month the Sunday Times reported he had accepted bags of cash containing $3 million from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar.

London police are currently investigating a separate allegation that people associated with another of the prince’s charities, the Prince’s Foundation, offered to help a Saudi billionaire secure honors and citizenship in return for donations. Clarence House has said Charles had no knowledge of any such offer.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Germans Tip-Toe Up the Path to Energy Savings

AUGSBURG, Germany — Wolfgang Hübschle went into city government expecting a simple life, planning things like traditional festivals replete with lederhosen.

Instead, these days he has the unpopular task of calculating which traffic lights to shut off, how to lower temperatures in offices and swimming pools — and perhaps, if it comes to it, pulling the plug on Bavarians’ beloved but energy-intensive breweries.

Municipal officials like Mr. Hübschle, the economic adviser to the provincial Bavarian city of Augsburg, sit on the front line of a geopolitical struggle with Russia since European Union leaders agreed this week to try to reduce natural gas consumption by 15 percent, fearing that President Vladimir V. Putin could cut exports in retaliation for Europe’s support for Ukraine.

a second pipeline from Russia, until the war forced the project to be suspended.

underlined the threat this week when it reduced flows through Nord Stream 1 into Germany to just 20 percent, citing, unconvincingly for many, problems with its German-made turbines.

Roughly half of all homes in Germany are heated with gas, while a third of the country’s gas is used by industry. If the coming winter is particularly cold, a cutoff would be brutal.

reopening coal-fired power plants to replace those that burn gas and rapidly expanding infrastructure for liquefied natural gas, along with securing contracts for deliveries from Qatar and the United States.

In a recent social media post, Mr. Habeck admonished people to change their daily habits as part of the effort to reach the country’s goal of saving 20 percent.

“If you think, OK, swapping out the shower head, thawing out the freezer or turning down the heater, none of that makes a difference — you are deceiving yourself,” Mr. Habeck said. “It is an excuse to do nothing.”

Some officials have expressed concern that the government is stoking panic. And some are hoping incentives will encourage careful energy use.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged to increase housing subsidies and shield renters from evictions over unpaid heating bills. This week, Munich announced an “energy bonus” of 100 euros to households that cut their annual consumption by 20 percent, and its utility company launched an energy-saving competition for customers this autumn.

Germans seem to be responding. The Federal Association of Energy and Water said the country was using almost 15 percent less gas compared to the same period last year, a trend they partly attributed to the record price of energy. Costs will increase further by the beginning of October, when the government introduces a gas surcharge.

In response, space heaters and wood ovens are selling out in many cities, and there is a long wait for mini-solar-panel units to power some home devices.

Claudia Kemfert, an energy economist with the German Institute for Economic Research, said such savings were critical but worried the country had wasted several months with appeals to citizens instead of taking more robust action with business.

Companies have shown they can reduce their gas consumption when they are not given a choice. Automaker Mercedes-Benz said on Wednesday it had trimmed 10 percent of its gas usage, and could cut as much as 50 percent while maintaining full operations.

“There is a lot we can achieve through market-based approaches, we should exhaust every option we have on that front so that we can avoid an emergency situation,” Ms. Kemfert said.

Municipal officials say they will have no way to understand how much their efforts can help until they get more data.

In Munich, capital of the southern state of Bavaria and an epicenter of German industry, the deputy mayor, Katrin Habenschaden, is skeptical.

“I honestly don’t believe that this can be compensated for, as much as I appreciate it through our efforts now to save energy.” she said. “Rather, I believe that we simply need other options or other solutions.”

As the deputy responsible for managing economic affairs, she has been helping the city with a kind of economic triage — assessing what kind of rationing different companies could face. Businesses, big and small, are courting the city, to make their case for why they should be spared.

Bavaria is of particular concern because it is home to companies that are drivers of German industry, like BMW and Siemens. The conservative regional government’s reluctance to challenge its heavy dependence on gas and push forward on renewable energies has also left it particularly vulnerable, Ms. Habenschaden, a Green, argued.

In Augsburg and Munich, local officials have requested that every city employee send their suggestions. One Augsburg civil servant pointed out the city’s two data centers were a major energy drain. They are now considering whether they can rely on just one.

More quietly, many local leaders are pondering which energy-hungry German traditions may have to be put on the chopping block, should the country be forced into energy rationing: Beer making? Christmas markets?

Mr. Hübschle said he believes Bavaria should shut down its famous breweries before letting its chemical industry face gas shortages.

Meanwhile, Rosi Steinberger, a member of Bavaria’s regional parliament, now works in a dark office to cut her consumption, and is debating whether to provoke the inevitable ire of Munich by suggesting it cancel its world-famous Oktoberfest. It is scheduled to return this fall after a two-year pandemic pause.

“I haven’t asked yet,” she said, with a nervous laugh. “But I also think that when people say there should be no taboos in what we consider — well, that’s what you have to think about.”

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Ukraine News: Kyiv Intensifies Attacks on Russian Positions in South

Credit…Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

BERLIN — When the main natural gas artery between Russia and Germany, the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, was taken off-line last week for 10 days of scheduled maintenance, European leaders began bracing for the possibility that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would not switch it back on as retaliation for opposing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

But Mr. Putin has suggested that the gas will resume flowing to Europe after the work on the pipeline — controlled by Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom — finishes on Thursday, though he warned that supplies might be further curtailed.

The European Commission called on the bloc’s 27 members to immediately begin taking steps to reduce gas consumption by 15 percent. “Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the commission, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.

But analysts have pointed out that if Russia ceased gas flows to Europe, the country would lose an element of leverage in the economic battle it has waged against the continent since the invasion of Ukraine, allowing Mr. Putin to exert control over supplies and prices.

Speaking to reporters late Tuesday in Tehran after meeting with the leaders of Iran and Turkey, Mr. Putin warned that Gazprom would send only “half of the volume intended” through the Nord Stream pipeline. Before it was shut down on July 11 for annual maintenance, flows had already been reduced to 40 percent of capacity.

Maintaining such a reduced flow of natural gas could be advantageous to the Russian leader, analysts said, allowing him to keep Europeans in a protracted state of uncertainty and near panic. Russia has already ceased gas deliveries through other major pipelines to Europe that cross Poland and Ukraine.

“To the extent that Putin maintains some gas flows on Nord Stream 1, he enjoys both income and leverage,” said David L. Goldwyn, a former senior State Department energy diplomat who served in the first term of the Obama administration. “Once he cuts off supply, he loses both and there is no turning back.”

European gas prices have soared to three or four times those of a year ago, causing a jump in inflation and raising concerns over social unrest once temperatures begin to drop.

The European Union imported 45 percent of its natural gas from Russia last year. That fell to only 28 percent in the first three months of this year. At the same time, overall gas imports in the bloc increased, driven largely by a 72 percent jump in purchases of liquefied natural gas.

Gazprom has blamed reduced flows through Nord Stream on a turbine that was sent to Montreal for repairs and could not be returned because of sanctions against Russia. German officials disputed Gazprom’s claim that the turbine could have caused such a cut in flows.

Credit…Pool photo by Alexey Maishev

Since then, the German government has secured the return of the equipment, which was made and repaired by Siemens Energy at a plant in Canada. But Mr. Putin said that another one of the turbines in the six compressors near Russia’s Baltic Sea coast was now in need of refurbishing and indicated there were also problems with several others.

“If one more comes, then it’s good, two will work. And if it does not come, there will be one, it will be only 30 million cubic meters per day,” he told reporters. That’s less than 20 percent of the pipeline’s capacity of 160 million cubic meters of gas a day, or 5,600 million cubic feet.

Records on a Nord Stream website indicated that a tiny amount of gas flowed through the pipeline on Tuesday afternoon, in an apparent test. A site run by the Gascade network provider showed that capacity had been booked through Nord Stream for Thursday. These aren’t guarantees that the gas will flow, but it could indicate Russia’s continued interest in piping gas to Europe.

Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University, said keeping a low flow through Nord Stream could strengthen Russia’s position and even weaken Europe’s resolve if the war dragged on.

“Maintaining Europe’s energy dependency on Russia and stoking uncertainty about natural gas supplies, which can only help in boosting prices,” he said, are among the reasons Mr. Putin would want to keep Nord Stream online. There is the added attraction, Mr. Prasad said, of being able “to some extent control Europe’s economic destiny.”

But a return of flows from Russia this week is no guarantee that they will continue in the future or be sufficient for Germany and its European partners to meet their goals to fill gas storage tanks to 80 percent capacity by the beginning of November. In Germany, where half the homes are heated by natural gas and the fuel is necessary for the chemical, steel and paper industries, storage levels reached 65 percent by Wednesday — just above the European average.

This week, Ms. von der Leyen traveled to Azerbaijan to secure a deal to double the imports of Azeri natural gas to at least 20 billion cubic meters (706 billion cubic feet) a year by 2027 as part of efforts across Europe to secure gas from sources beyond Russia.

Germany has turned to the Netherlands and Norway for more gas, as well as buying more liquefied natural gas from the United States and Qatar. But none of Europe’s 26 L.N.G. terminals, which are needed to convert the gas from its deep-chilled state back into a gas, are in Germany.

Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister and vice chancellor, has secured 2.94 billion euros to rent four floating L.N.G. terminals. The first are scheduled to be in operation by the end of the year.

But if Europe faces an unusually cold winter, that might not be soon enough to ensure that Germany keeps its homes heated and factories running. Germany has already activated two steps of a three-stage “gas emergency” plan, bringing back coal-fired power plants to replace those run by gas and running through scenarios of what would happen if the gas is cut off entirely.

To some observers, the panic of recent weeks is exactly what Mr. Putin wants.

“Will he give us gas? Will he cut the flow? Europe is hanging on Putin’s lips again,” Janis Kluge, an analyst on Russia with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, wrote on Twitter. “However the Nord Stream 1 saga continues, he is definitely loving every part of it.”

Melissa Eddy reported from Berlin, and Patricia Cohen from London. Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting from Brussels, and Anton Troianovski from Berlin.

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Khamenei adviser says Tehran ‘capable of building nuclear bomb,’ Al Jazeera reports

Iranian flag is pictured in front of Iran’s Foreign Ministry building in Tehran November 23, 2009. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl (IRAN POLITICS)/File Photo

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DUBAI, July 17 (Reuters) – Iran is technically capable of making a nuclear bomb but has not decided whether to build one, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Qatar’s al Jazeera TV on Sunday.

Kamal Kharrazi spoke a day after U.S. President Joe Biden ended his four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, vowing to stop Iran from “acquiring a nuclear weapon.” read more

Kharrazi’s comments were a rare suggestion that Iran might have an interest in nuclear weapons, which it has long denied seeking.

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“In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60% and we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium … Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build one,” Kharrazi said.

Iran is already enriching to up to 60%, far above a cap of 3.67% under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Uranium enriched to 90% is suitable for a nuclear bomb.

In 2018, former U.S. President Donald Trump ditched the nuclear pact, under which Iran curbed its uranium enrichment work, a potential pathway to nuclear weapons, in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

In reaction to Washington’s withdrawal and its reimposition of harsh sanctions, Tehran started violating the pact’s nuclear restrictions.

Last year, Iran’s intelligence minister said Western pressure could push Tehran to seek nuclear weapons, the development of which Khamenei banned in a fatwa, or religious decree, in the early 2000s.

Iran says it is refining uranium only for civilian energy uses, and has said its breaches of the international deal are reversible if the United States lifts sanctions and rejoins the agreement.

The broad outline of a revived deal was essentially agreed in March after 11 months of indirect talks between Tehran and Biden’s administration in Vienna.

But talks then broke down over obstacles including Tehran’s demand that Washington should give guarantees that no U.S. president will abandon the deal, the same way Trump did.

Biden cannot promise this because the nuclear deal is a non-binding political understanding, not a legally-binding treaty.

“The United States has not provided guarantees on preserving the nuclear deal and this ruins the possibility of any agreement,” Kharrazi said.

Israel, which Iran does not recognise, has threatened to attack Iranian nuclear sites if diplomacy fails to contain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Kharrazi said Iran would never negotiate its balistic missile programme and regional policy, as demanded by the West and its allies in the Middle East. read more

“Any targeting of our security from neighbouring countries will be met with direct response to these countries and Israel.”

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Writing by Parisa Hafezi
Editing by David Goodman, Philippa Fletcher and Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Airbus loses bid to use French blocking law in Qatar row

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Surface damage seen on Qatar Airways’ airbus A350 parked at Qatar airways aircraft maintenance hangar in Doha, Qatar, June 20, 2022. REUTERS/Imad Creidi//File Photo

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LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) – (Amends paragraph 6 of July 15 story to show that Airbus’ comment on French legal risks is paraphrased testimony, not a direct quote)

A UK judge on Friday rejected an attempt by Airbus (AIR.PA) to invoke a De Gaulle-era law restricting the way it responds to foreign courts, as a high-profile dispute with Qatar Airways became mired in a growing debate over cross-border legal powers.

Qatar Airways is suing France-based Airbus for $1.4 billion over damage to the painted surface and anti-lightning system on A350 jets, saying safety could be at risk from a design defect. Airbus acknowledges quality flaws but insists the jets are safe.

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Now, the two sides must provide each other with thousands of pages of documents as their dispute heads towards a rare London aerospace trial in mid-2023, barring an elusive settlement.

Airbus says it is prevented from directly handing over documents sought by Qatar Airways by a 1968 law that stops French companies from handing over sensitive economic details to foreign courts, without a special mechanism in place.

The planemaker applied to a UK judge for permission to appoint a special commissioner responsible for transmitting the documents to Qatar Airways, something it had already done to assist UK authorities during a bribery investigation.

Airbus said that failing to set up such a conduit would expose the company to criminal charges in France.

“This is not something entirely novel, weird or wacky that we are proposing,” its lawyer Rupert Allen told a division of the High Court in an online hearing on Friday.

Judge David Waksman, however, rejected the request, awarding costs to Qatar Airways.

The 1968 law – widely referred to as the “French blocking statute” – was designed to protect French companies from oppressive foreign court demands especially from the United States, with which Paris was locked in an economic Cold War.

“That in my judgment is a million miles away from what this case is all about,” Judge David Waksman said.

“This is hardly the example of an unwilling, vulnerable French company that has now found itself having to cope with a highly intrusive and oppressive form of discovery,” he said.

JURISDICTION DEBATE

He also criticised the planemaker for slowness over the request for a special disclosure mechanism.

The jurisdictional row coincides with a simmering political debate in the UK over the rights of British and foreign courts following Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Tensions flared again last month when the European Court of Human Rights, which is separate from the EU, blocked Britain’s move to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

At least one of the candidates to replace Boris Johnson as UK prime minister has pledged to withdraw from the court.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who is not standing in the Conservative leadership race, has said Britain will stay in the ECHR but that it is “legitimate to push back”. read more

In France, a corruption case that led to a record 3.6 billion euro $3.63 billion) fine against Airbus from Britain, France and the United States in 2020 also fuelled a debate over the extra-territorial reach of U.S. prosecutors against French companies.

Airbus said throughout the four-year investigation that it was co-operating with all domestic and foreign agencies.

Friday’s ruling came after Qatar Airways urged the judge to invoke the authority of English courts, which both sides had chosen to settle any disputes in their jetliner contracts.

“Complying with a foreign law is no defence against non-compliance” with English courts, Qatar’s lawyer Philip Shepherd said.

Airbus said in an emailed statement it had sought to comply with applicable laws rather than limit disclosure. Qatar Airways had no immediate comment on the judgment.

($1 = 0.9915 euros)

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Reporting by Tim Hepher
Editing by Barbara Lewis and Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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