Will Germans have to take a bath with a friend this winter? Or follow the example of Robert Habeck, their Green vice-chancellor, and keep their morning shower to less than five minutes?
Similar questions are being asked across much of Europe amid speculation that when Russia shuts down a vital pipeline carrying gas to the Continent tomorrow for ten days of routine maintenance, it may not turn the taps back on again.
There are already concerns about supplies in Germany, by far the biggest importer of Russian gas, whose government last week proposed an emergency law to help keep the heating on through the winter. Italy and some central and eastern Europe countries also fear problems when the weather turns colder.
Natural gas is becoming “one of the major battlefields of the geo-economic war between Russia and the West”, said Sergey Vakulenko, a Bonn-based energy analyst, in a report for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.
Predictions of doom abound: in Europe there is a 40 per cent chance of recession caused by gas shortages this winter, according to a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), which warns of a “veritable pan-European crisis”.
Britain would not be spared: although the majority of its imported gas comes from Norway, it is exposed to rising global energy prices that shortages cause. It also has “very limited storage capacity, meaning it is less able to sit out temporary price shocks” caused either by politics or the weather, the CEBR says.
But would President Putin really close the pipeline, Nord Stream 1, and what would be the consequences for Europe — and for Russia itself — if he did?