The news from the European energy front is worrying, as the fast-approaching winter finds Europeans turning to emergency solutions for heating, according to a Washington Post report.
As the newspaper reports, even in rich countries such as Germany, Britain, Italy and the Netherlands, the world is looking for emergency solutions for this winter, after the instrumentalization of natural gas exports by the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
Thus, in Poland the authorities are considering the distribution of anti-suffocation masks, as several Poles have expressed the intention to even burn garbage this winter, while in Germany the residents of West Berlin are dusting off the wood stoves they once had as a safety valve in case the Russians targeted energy stocks during the Cold War.
Several European countries are suffering from shortages and are seeing prices soar even for a fuel of last resort: firewood. Thieves, sensing an opportunity, steal logs from trucks, while fraudsters set up fake websites posing as timber sellers to lure consumers. Wood stoves and wood ovens in many countries are almost exhausted.
“Firewood is the new gold,” Franz Lüninghake, a system administrator in Bremen, Germany, who uses a wood stove as his primary means of heating, tells the Washington Post. His estimated bill for next year? $4,500 – up from the $1,500 he paid in total for the 12 months to last May.
Norbert Skrobek, a chimney sweep from Berlin – a licensed technician who wears a vintage outfit to inspect and advise on wood and coal-burning stoves – said he is seeing an increase in demand as Berliners repair old heaters and install new ones. He even expresses his concern about dangerous carbon monoxide leaks that can result from incorrect installation or use.
“I am convinced that some people will need to be taken out horizontally this year,” he said.
Even as heat swept across Europe this summer, panicked consumers stockpiled firewood, sending prices soaring. In the Hungarian village of Ag, about two hours from Budapest, the price of firewood, which is used almost exclusively as fuel in the winter, has almost doubled, says Nicoleta Kelemen. One tree currently fetches half the average salary in the village, which amounts to $249. “I imagine the moment will come when furniture will burn,” she says.
In the forests around Stuttgart, illegal logging has increased. Authorities have warned that uncontrolled logging and emissions from old wood stoves are anything but environmentally friendly, but many people have no choice.
In Berlin recently, Vincenzo Schonfelder watched chimney sweep Norbert Schrobeck inspect his old wood stove. It was built in 1880 and has not been used for decades. It is the 41-year-old’s alternative, in case Germany runs out of natural gas. His situation reminds him of growing up in East Germany, where citizens were always prepared for the occasional blackout. “The last time I experienced this uncertainty was as a child in the 80s,” he says.
With information from the Washington Post