Big chill boosts European energy prices

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Big chill boosts European energy prices

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European energy prices have shot up on a combination of bitterly cold weather across the region and Iran’s talk of banning oil exports to some European states.

Brent crude oil — the benchmark for the region — rose to a six month high above $116 a barrel on fears that supplies could be cut off if Tehran follows through on its threats.

Iran’s parliament said on Tuesday it was ready to impose a ban on oil exports to some European states, the country’s English-language Press TV reported, pre-empting a ban announced by the European Union set to begin from July 1.

President Barack Obama tightened sanctions on Iran another notch, the White House said on Monday, targeting its central bank and giving US banks new powers to freeze assets linked to the government.

The severe wintry weather throughout Europe has seen gas demand rise to record levels.

In Britain wholesale gas prices hit their highest in six years.

In France they are even higher and Italy this week took emergency measures to deal with what it called critical shortages of gas coming from Russia shutting off supplies to some industrial clients.

The Italian Industry Ministry said it had decided to enforce so-called “interruptible” gas contracts with industrial clients and to switch on oil-fired power stations to partly replace gas-fired plants.

Gas supplies to the European Union from Russia improved over the weekend but have not fully recovered.

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