Europe scrambles to protect consumers against dizzying energy prices

Europe’s energy war is heating up. The eu is preparing to boycott most Russian oil, starting from December. Russia, for its part, is curbing gas supply to Europe: on August 31st it halted flows through its biggest pipeline, citing maintenance. The confrontation has caused an energy crunch. Wholesale gas prices are nine times what they were last year; power prices, which are linked to gas, the marginal generation fuel, have soared.

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The crisis threatens to boil over in the winter, when huge bills could hit firms and people. Accordingly, European governments are staging defensive manoeuvres. Bruegel, a think-tank in Brussels, reckons they have allocated €280bn ($300bn) to cushioning the shock over the past year. Shielding tactics vary in kind, calibre and cost.

Many countries are softening the wholesale-price…

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