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The logo of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project is seen at a rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

What We're Watching: Russian gas pipeline problems, China's economic slump, the other mobilization

Did someone blow up the Nord Stream pipelines?

The operator of the two Nord Stream gas pipelines, which run from Russia to Western Europe under the Baltic Sea, reported “unprecedented” leaks and massive pressure drops on Tuesday, stoking fears of foul play. Nord Stream was not actually carrying gas to Europe at the time — the EU froze approvals for the new Nord Stream 2 line after Russia invaded Ukraine, and Russia halted existing flows through Nord Stream 1 in August, blaming Western sanctions. But the incident comes as Europe bundles up for winter with substantially reduced shipments of Russian gas. Seismologists recorded explosions in the area on Monday, and European officials have suggested sabotage, but so far there is no hard evidence. Russian officials, for their part, lamented the incident’s impact on “energy security,” while some pro-government outlets have suggested American sabotage. If it were deliberate, who’d benefit most from blowing up a non-operational pipeline? Apart from the geopolitical intrigue, there are environmental concerns too — the line is now leaking gargantuan amounts of methane, churning up the sea off the Danish island of Bornholm.

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Ari Winkleman

The Graphic Truth: Natural gas prices make EU power costs soar

EU natural gas prices have gone through the roof since Russia invaded Ukraine and cut off gas flows. This has sent European electric bills soaring — to the point that Brussels is ready to intervene in energy markets to protect consumers.

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Paige Fusco

With electric bills soaring, should the EU cap natural gas prices?

Energy prices in the EU have skyrocketed since Russia invaded Ukraine. This week, the cost of electricity across the bloc reached 10 times the decade-long average — mainly due to surging gas prices as a result of Moscow cutting natural gas supplies as payback for sanctions.

As consumers feel the pinch, EU leaders are now under intense pressure to do something to tame runaway energy costs. One way is putting a cap on gas prices for electricity.

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The European Union's energy mix

The Graphic Truth: The European Union's energy mix

Since Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, the European Union has upped its commitments to ditch dirty energy sources, in large part to reduce its reliance on Russian oil and natural gas, and dilute Moscow’s leverage over European geopolitics. But even before the war, EU countries had been working towards diversifying their energy portfolios to meet their ambitious climate goals. In recent years, nuclear power and renewable energy sources have been more widely adopted throughout the bloc, while fossil fuel consumption has dipped. We compare the EU’s energy mix in 2000 and 2020.

Luisa Vieira

The EU’s natural gas troubles won’t end after ditching Russia

When Russian energy giant Gazprom shut off the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline for routine summer maintenance last week, Germany and the rest of the EU feared that Russian President Vladimir Putin would refuse to turn the tap back on as a way of punishing the West for sanctions against Russia.

The jitters dissipated somewhat when Nordstream went back online Thursday, albeit at 40% capacity. But Berlin and other European capitals still worry that if things go south, they’ll need to ration gas at the worst possible time: when they need it to keep homes warm during the winter. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is urging EU members to ration natural gas by 15% through next March to prepare for a likely future cut in supply.

The Europeans have long realized that over-depending on (and over-investing in) a single energy source makes them geopolitically vulnerable. But cutting off Russia and turning to the Middle East and North Africa will be anything but smooth sailing.

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Luisa Vieira

War in Ukraine and the race against time

The conventional wisdom is that Russia’s war in Ukraine has settled into a slow grind as Russian forces gain territory acre-by-acre across the Donbas region. But behind the war’s slow-rolling violence, three frantic races are well underway.

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Paige Fusco

The Graphic Truth: Thirsty for Russian energy

Much of the world has long relied on Russian energy to power their economies. That makes it very hard for them to punish the Kremlin for invading Ukraine by ditching Russia's plentiful oil, natural gas, and coal in the near term. So, who's most dependent on Russian fossil fuels? We look at a select group of OECD economies.

A Japanese tanker anchored near an LNG plant on Russia's Sakhalin Island.

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Japan’s red line on Russia

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, a lot of attention has focused on if, when, and how Europe might wean itself off of Russian energy flows to cripple Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

But there’s another major world economy that borders Russia, depends on Moscow to keep the power running, and faces tough choices because of its close ties to the US.

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