The price of firewood shot up, thefts increased
The fear of a winter without natural gas – due to the decisions of Vladimir Putin – as well as soaring energy prices are making Europeans turn to firewood, as they use old wood stoves or buy new ones, the Washington Post points out.
Across Europe, Vladimir Putin’s decision to weaponize natural gas is a bombshell for consumers in some of the world’s richest countries, the US newspaper notes.
In the worst-hit states – including Germany, Britain, Italy and the Netherlands – citizens are facing increases of up to 210%, while there are warnings of rationing and blackouts.
In Britain, the energy crisis is causing people to abandon their pets while schools are warning that rising energy costs mean they will no longer be able to cover the cost of new textbooks. In Poland, authorities are considering distributing smog masks as citizens consider burning trash to keep warm in winter. In Germany, Berliners are dusting off old wood stoves and coal-burning ovens.
In several European countries there are shortages – but also the prices have soared – for the fuel that is the last resort: firewood. Some, sensing this need, steal logs from trucks, scammers set up websites posing as wood sellers, to deceive desperate consumers. Wood stoves have almost died out in several countries.
«Firewood is the new gold“, 62-year-old Franz Luningacke from Bremen, who ordered a wood-burning stove, told the Washington Post. He estimates the energy bill next year will reach $4,500, up from $1,500 in the twelve months to May.
Norbert Schrobeck, a chimney sweep in Berlin, says he has seen an increase in demand as residents of the German capital refurbish old heaters and install new ones. Many locals are buying portable heaters which they fear could cause dangerous carbon monoxide leaks if not installed or used properly. “I’m convinced we’ll be forced to lay some off this winter“, he says characteristically.
In the face of the unpredictable winter, European consumers are increasingly desperate. Recent research in Britain has shown that almost one in four intend not to turn on the heating this winter.
Even as heat swept across Europe this summer, panicked consumers began hoarding firewood, sending prices skyrocketing. In the village of Ag in Hungary – about two hours southwest of Budapest – the price of firewood, used almost exclusively as fuel in winter, has almost doubled, says Nicoleta Kelemen. Just one tree now costs almost half the average salary in the village, which is $249. “I imagine the time will come when furniture will burn“, he adds.
In forests around Stuttgart, wood theft has increased. Authorities have warned that illegal logging and emissions from old kilns are anything but environmentally friendly. But many increasingly feel they have no other options.
In Berlin recently, Vincenzo Schonfelder watched chimney sweep Norbert Schrobeck inspect his old 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.
The situation it reminds him of his time growing up in East Germany, where citizens were more prepared for occasional blackouts. “The last time I experienced this uncertainty was as a child in the 80s,” he says.
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