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EU pushes plan to limit gas consumption amid fears of Russian shut-off

The European Union on Wednesday implored member countries to cut down on their use of natural gas as the bloc prepares for the possibility of restrictions on Russian supply.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, on Wednesday released a plan asking countries to reduce consumption by 15 percent between Aug. 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023 "compared with the five-year average for the same period," The Washington Post reports. The body's plan also asks governments to switch to alternative fuels, provides incentives for industries to cut consumption, and details ways consumers can reduce their impact when heating and cooling.

News of the commission's proposal arrives after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday that gas supplies sent from Russia to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline could be impacted by Western sanctionsThe Wall Street Journal reportsThe Nord Stream is on Thursday set to resume operations after a 10-day maintenance period, though Europe is nervous about what might actually happen, the Post adds.

"Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore, in any event, whether it's a partial major cutoff of Russian gas or total cutoff ... Europe needs to be ready," Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen told a press conference. "We have to prepare for a potential full disruption of Russian gas," she continued. "And this is a likely scenario."

The commission has said it would make the recommendations outlined Wednesday binding should they not be enough to combat the situation when enacted voluntarily. In both instances, member state approval is required, per the Journal.