EU starts talks with Norway to try to cut the price of gas

Gas pump Source: iStock

The European Union is in talks with energy powerhouse Norway as part of its efforts to cut the price of gas and tame the damage to its economy caused by lost Russian supplies.

“We need to keep working to lower gas prices,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament. “I have agreed with Prime Minister Store to set up a task force. Teams have started their work.”

It’s not clear how willing non-EU member Norway will be to cut prices to help its ally. While Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said Tuesday that it’s in Norway’s interest to have more stable – and lower – prices, he has also said a European cap would be a bad idea that would end up crimping supply. The country has emerged as a winner of Europe’s gas crisis with the continent scrambling to find new suppliers to survive a winter without Russian gas.

Von der Leyen used her state of the union speech to set out a series of radical proposals to ease the crisis, from a grab on energy companies’ profits to measures to curb demand. She said the bloc aimed to raise more than 140 billion euros ($140 billion) from a swoop on the revenues of low-cost power producers, to be funneled to consumers. The commission is also proposing a temporary levy on fossil-fuel producers.

“In our social market economy, profits are good. But in these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record profits benefiting from war and on the back of consumers.” von der Leyen said.

Her proposals fire the starting gun on what are likely to be fractious discussions between member states, which have different priorities and vulnerabilities. The aim is to get a deal in place by the start of October -- when the heating season starts.

Von der Leyen has already had to park the idea of imposing a price cap on imported Russian gas amid opposition and divisions. But gas prices are easing from their highs – partly on the back of the bloc’s willingness to act.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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