Putin’s war: Fuel rationing and public transport cuts could be the order of the day if the energy crisis escalates

The impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the Irish economy and society has been laid bare in a series of stark warnings given to Cabinet ministers.

The worst-case scenario briefing presented to ministers explained how household gas and electricity may have to be rationed and public transport services cut if the war-triggered energy crisis spins out of control.

The confidential note even warned of potential food shortages due to the impact of the escalating fuel crisis on the agricultural industry.

As the government last night decided to cut petrol and diesel duty by 20c and 15c, the memo revealed that the state has already been forced to tap into the 90-day reserve of crude and refined oil from the country due to fuel demand.

The Cabinet was also warned of the possibility of a cyberattack against RTÉ in retaliation for economic sanctions imposed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. These included banning Russian state media from broadcasting across the EU and on social media platforms.

Arts Minister Catherine Martin said her department was liaising with RTÉ to ensure it could continue broadcasting in the event of a cyberattack.

The memo says RTÉ has ​​built “resilience into its systems” to protect against attacks. Last night RTÉ said it was in regular contact with the department and added it was ‘subject to cyberattacks on an almost daily basis’.

“Over the past two years, RTÉ has ​​introduced additional security controls to increase its protection against hacking attempts, and we continue to monitor potential attacks daily,” a spokesperson said.

Cabinet has been told that the National Cyber ​​Security Center (NCSC) has acquired additional expertise which is on standby to help following a wave of cyber attacks targeting Irish services and businesses.

The NCSC believes there is no immediate threat of a cyberattack, but it pays attention to areas that could be targeted due to sanctions against Russia, including the energy, telecommunications and service sectors. financial.

Cabinet has been told that the ‘ripple effects’ of the war in Ukraine and international sanctions have directly exposed Ireland to rising energy prices which will hit households and businesses.

This will in turn lead to a slowdown in the rate of economic growth with implications for jobs and public finances.

The cost of gas, oil and electricity will increase significantly for all consumers, domestic and commercial, in the short to medium term, the Cabinet note warned.

He said the fallout from the invasion had triggered market volatility that had dramatically increased wholesale oil and gas prices on world markets, making it harder for Ireland to source supplies.

However, he warned of restrictions on supplies of natural gas, precious metals, raw materials such as timber and other valuable products.

He warned that shortages of natural gas and C02 could lead to reduced food processing with significant and immediate implications for the national food supply and for farmers’ incomes.

Ministers were briefed on a process of “graduated demand management measures” that could be imposed on electricity and gas consumers as part of the state’s gas contingency plan in the event of supply constraints. supply.

A Cabinet source described the warning as tantamount to a ‘rationing’ of electricity and gas supplies, but stressed that supply issues were not currently being considered by the government, with concerns centering on energy costs.

Ministers were told that a ‘partial release’ of the state’s 90-day reserve of crude and refined petroleum products had already taken place as part of the permanent arrangements in place for emergency releases in the event of constraints supply.

The memo says energy supply and price management measures would be “essential to mitigate business and investment risks”, particularly in the biopharmaceutical, microelectronics and medical device sectors. , and adds that the impact on data centers “would have a broader and broader scope”. significant international effect”.

The Public Expenditure Department is working with several other departments to assess the potential magnitude of the costs involved.

A Financial Stability Group, chaired by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance and comprising the Governor of the Central Bank, the Director General of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and officials from each agency, will meet at least once a week to oversee a Ukraine crisis sub-group and undertake contingency planning.

The memo also warns that it is now clear that Ireland will have to accommodate increasing numbers of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Ireland “potentially on an unprecedented scale and at short notice”.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman has outlined plans to take over caravan parks, former military bases and Airbnb accommodation to house refugees .

Officials are also in talks with government agencies and the Office of Public Works about using state-owned buildings and land to provide housing. The government will also discuss with religious orders the provision of accommodation.

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