The city of lights? Sure, as long as they’re turned off.
Paris’ longtime nickname may require an adjustment – or at least dimming – as part of the current European effort to prepare for the possibility of winter without Russian gas.
Gestures big and small, from taking shorter showers to extinguishing unnecessary lights, will be necessary for member states to meet the European Union’s request of a 15% reduction in gas use over the coming months in anticipation of Russia perhaps shutting off natural gas supplies entirely after substantial recent cutbacks.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has accused Russia of weaponizing energy and “blackmailing us” in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. She and other officials are emphasizing the importance of conserving gas now so it can be stored for burning later in homes, factories and power plants.
“Europe needs to be ready,” von der Leyen said. “To make it through the winter, assuming that there is a full disruption of Russian gas, we need to save gas to fill our gas storages faster. And to do so, we have to reduce our gas consumption.”
Governments are taking heed. In Berlin, City Hall and the landmark Victory Column are among about 200 sites that will no longer be lit at night. In Spain, a new law requires that offices, stores and hospitality venues set thermostats no lower than 81 degrees Fahrenheit in summer or higher than 66 degrees in winter.
Smaller jurisdictions such as the town of Aureilhan, home to 8,000 residents in the foothills of the Pyrenees in southwestern France, are responding as well. Since July 11, Aureilhan has been turning off street lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“When it comes down to it, there’s no reason to keep the lights on at night,” Mayor Yannick Boubée said. “It is shaking up our way of thinking.”
USA TODAY ON TELEGRAM: Join our Russia-Ukraine war channel to receive updates
►After previously declining to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reputed girlfriend, reportedly out of concern about escalating tensions, the Biden administration took that step Tuesday when it froze Alina Kabaeva’s visa. The Treasury Department said Kabaeva has “a close relationship to Putin.”
►Ukraine’s presidential office said Wednesday that Russian shelling killed at least four civilians in Donetsk province in 24 hours. Mandatory evacuation of the region has begun, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Telegram, and the first evacuation train arrived in Kropyvnytskyi.
►Nearly 6.2 million Ukrainians refugees have been forced to move across Europe and another 6.3 million have been displaced within Ukraine, according to new data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
►Russia shelling damaged a pier, an industrial enterprise, residential buildings, a garage cooperative, a supermarket and a pharmacy in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv late Tuesday and early Wednesday, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said.
The first ship carrying grain to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since the war with Russia began is making its way to Lebanon after passing inspection Wednesday, Turkish and Ukrainian officials said, but there’s no word yet on when others might follow.
Officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations inspected the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, which is carrying more than 26,000 tons of corn, when the vessel docked in Istanbul, Turkey’s defense ministry said on Twitter. The inspection is meant to ensure outbound vessels are only carrying grain or other food-related items and that inbound ships don’t bring in weapons.
The Razoni departed from Odesa on Monday thanks to a July 22 deal brokered by the UN and Turkey as part of an effort to ease a growing food crisis. The deal allows Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports for months because of a Russian blockade. Russia will be allowed to export grain and fertilizer.
The ship will now cross the 19-mile Bosporus Strait before sailing to Lebanon. The Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure said 17 more vessels are awaiting permission to leave the country’s ports, but it’s not clear when they’ll receive it.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address late Tuesday that resuming grain exports would limit Russia’s ability to pressure the West. “They are losing one of the opportunities to terrorize the world,” he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press