Russia on Wednesday stepped up the energy pressure on Europe, slashing gas supplies to the continent for the second day in a row in a move blasted as “political” by Germany.
A day after Gazprom said it was cutting deliveries via the Nord Stream pipeline by around 40 percent, the Russian state-owned energy giant said it was further snuffing out its daily deliveries by a third.
The energy company blamed the cut on “repair” work on compressor units by German company Siemens, but Berlin slapped down the excuse.
Gazprom’s move was “a political decision and not a technically justifiable decision”, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said at a press conference.
The minister said Wednesday’s move to further dwindle flows showed “it is obviously a strategy to unsettle and drive up prices”.
Separately, Italian energy giant Eni said it was informed by Gazprom that it was reducing its gas supplies by 15 percent for Wednesday without explanation.
Several European countries, including Germany, are highly reliant upon Russian gas for their energy needs.
But since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they have been battling to wean themselves off Russian power.
In a race for alternative sources of energy, the European Union signed gas deals with Egypt and Israel during a Cairo visit Wednesday by the bloc’s chief Ursula von der Leyen.
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The Nord Stream pipeline, commissioned in 2012, runs from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea and is the main conduit for gas from Russia to Europe’s biggest economy.
A second underwater pipeline, Nord Stream 2, that was set to double deliveries was halted by Germany in the run up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Habeck said Germany was aware of the need to service the Nord Stream pipeline but added that “the first set of maintenance works where this would have become relevant will not take place until autumn.”
At the same time, those works would not warrant a reduction “on the order of 40 percent”, Habeck said.
Gazprom said Tuesday that the delayed return of components meant only three gas-pumping units were currently operational at the Portovaya compression station near the Russian city Vyborg, where the pipeline begins.
Germany was monitoring the impact on the gas market, but there was “no supply problem in Germany”, Habeck said.
He stressed that saving energy was the “order of the day”, and that Germany was ready to “take government action, if necessary”.
Since the start of the war, European countries have sought to reduce their reliance on imports from Russia, but are divided about how quickly to impose an embargo on gas.
Moscow has already cut off several European clients after they failed to comply with a Russian demand that all “unfriendly” countries pay for natural gas in rubles in response to a barrage of Western sanctions over Ukraine.
Poland, Bulgaria, Finland and the Netherlands have had their deliveries suspended after refusing the arrangement.
Eni said in May it has opened accounts in euros and in rubles to pay for Russian gas, thus complying with Moscow’s demands, but insisted the move was taken in compliance with the sanctions.
Tesla driver-assistance involved in 273 US crashes: report
Tesla vehicles have been involved in most of the crashes involving “Level 2” driver-assistance systems reported to the government, according to US data released Wednesday.
The electric autos accounted for 273 of 392 crashes reported under a June 2021 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration directive requiring manufacturers to submit data on crashes for Level 2 driver-assistance programs, which aid with braking and steering but require the driver to remain fully engaged at all times.
NHTSA last week expanded a probe into Tesla’s “Autopilot” system, which Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has argued reduces the risk of accidents when used properly.
Crashes are reportable if the assistance system was used within 30 seconds of the incident and if the episode resulted in a fatality, a vehicle tow-away, airbag deployment or injury to a pedestrian or other “vulnerable” road user.
“The data released today are part of our commitment to transparency, accountability and public safety,” said NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff.
“As we gather more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world.”
NHTSA did not criticize Tesla or other automakers in the report and cautioned of imperfections in the data.
Some of the incidents may have been reported multiple times by the same entity.
“Consequently, the overall number of reports submitted does not equate to the total number of incidents and is not a meaningful safety metric,” NHTSA said in the report.
Another issue is that the manufacturers who are required to report the incidents can only do so if and when the vehicle owner reports the incident. As a result, some incidents may not have been reported, NHTSA said.
NHTSA last week said it widened a probe of Tesla to whether “Autopilot and associated Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks by undermining the effectiveness of the driver’s supervision.”
The action moves NHTSA a step closer to a potential recall of Tesla vehicles.
Spanish airline to fly UK-made helium airships
Spain’s Air Nostrum has become the first airline to reserve 100-seat helium airships that emit just one tenth of harmful emissions produced by jet planes, their British manufacturer said Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Hybrid Air Vehicles told AFP that Air Nostrum signed a deal to lease 10 Airlanders scheduled for delivery from 2026 onwards in a transaction worth over $600 million.
The Spanish regional carrier aims to become HAV’s launch customer while also diversifying its domestic fleet, using the Airlander on domestic routes.
The UK group will create 1,800 jobs at its facility in South Yorkshire, northern England, when it starts production later this year.
The hybrid ship — which looks like two blimps stuck together — has a helium-filled hull and will be propelled by a hybrid of electric and fuel-burning engines, with the goal of going all-electric by 2030.
It can stay in the air for five days and travel at maximum speeds of 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour, with a range of more than 7,000 kilometres.
“Airlander is designed to deliver a better future for sustainable aviation services, enable new transport networks and provide rapid growth options for our customers,” said HAV chief executive Tom Grundy in a statement.
“Our partnership with Air Nostrum Group, as the launch Airline for Airlander 10, leads the way towards that future.”
The airline said in a separate statement on Wednesday that the planned aircraft, which has not yet been certified by regulators, will use far less fuel than regular jets.
“We are exploring each and every possible way to reduce our carbon footprint,” added Air Nostrum boss Carlos Bertomeu.
“The Airlander 10 will drastically reduce emissions and for that reason we have made this agreement with HAV.”
Delivery will be staggered over a five-year period.
The first prototype, developed with US aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, took flight in 2012 as part of a project with Pentagon, which was cancelled due to technical and budgetary issues.
HAV transferred the 92-metre-long vehicle to Britain in 2013 to turn it into a civilian model, bigger than an A380 jumbo jet.
It was presented to the public for the first time in 2016, but it nosedived while landing on its second test flight, without causing any injuries.
Twitter holds firm on completing Musk buyout: board chairman
Twitter remains committed to closing Elon Musk’s $44 billion buyout bid, the firm’s board chairman said Wednesday, as doubts swirl about the billionaire’s intentions for the troubled deal.
Bret Taylor, who is also co-CEO of the software company Salesforce, reiterated the Twitter position that the agreement should be finalized.
“The board is committed to the transaction,” Taylor said at a Paris tech conference, refusing to elaborate further.
Musk and Twitter have been in a standoff in recent weeks over the true number of users on the social media network, which has led to speculation the mercurial Tesla boss is trying to renegotiate or back away from the deal.
He has threatened to withdraw his bid, accusing Twitter of failing to provide data on fake accounts, but the company has since reportedly agreed to give him access.
Musk is set to address Twitter employees for the first time on Thursday, as questions mount over the deal and the impact of his potential leadership of the platform.
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