Like it or not, with Nord Stream 2, Putin has a foot on the gas Europe badly needs

Gazprom, a Russian-backed energy company, confirmed last month that Nord Stream 2 was completed. This 760-mile pipeline has the potential to transport 55bn cubic meters of gas from the Baltic Sea to Germany each year.
Russia is Europe's largest gas supplier. However, Nord Stream 2 once it is operational would provide a significant boost for the 170bn cubic meters that keeps lights on across the continent.

Alexander Novak, Russia's deputy prime minister suggested last week that Germany's regulators quickly approved Nord Stream 2. This project is expected to take several months and could help solve the soaring gas prices plaguing European governments.

This was a move that cooled the markets and came after intense pressure from Europe, the International Energy Agency (the world's energy watchdog), to increase supplies.

Nord Stream 2 is not the solution to the immediate crisis. Gazprom has admitted that it will likely only run at 10% of its capacity for the remaining months. Gazprom could reserve additional capacity through pipes to Ukraine and Poland if it really wanted to cool the markets.

There are indications that Russia is increasing its supply over the past two days. Once Gazprom meets the November deadline to be fully stocked for this winter's domestic demand, more gas should be available for Europeans.

The argument about Nord Stream 2 highlights the problem facing Europe in its struggle to clean up its energy supply.

Europe has set itself challenging goals in the name climate emergency. These include increasing the EU's share of renewable energy to 40%. This is where the money is going.

However, Europe will need to transition slowly as it closes its coal mines. Germany made the situation worse by deciding to eliminate nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe. It left it dependent on fossil fuels to bridge the gap to a future powered by renewables.

The White House and others opposed to Nord Stream 2 argue that it is part the Kremlin's geopolitical strategy. Although it appears to be a private-sector venture, Vladimir Putin is in control of the project. The US claims that approval of regulatory changes will only increase Europe's dependence on Russia, and weaken Ukraine, a key western ally by rendering its pipelines obsolete.

Putin may try to play politics with gas. The Kremlin, which has not been able to do this in the past is instead looking to be a reliable partner. Russia's main interest is to sell as many gas as possible as quickly as possible.

Putin's last-minute change of heart was driven by this economic reality: While Russia enjoys being a nuisance to its neighbors, it does not have the best interests of accelerating Europe's transition to renewable energy. Russia could be putting its finances at risk by speeding up Europe's decarbonization.

There is plenty of evidence to show that transit fees for gas from Ukraine's old pipelines paid by Europeans ended up in the pockets a few less-respected people. They are also old pipelines that are prone to explosions and leaks. Nord Stream 2 is a more cost-effective and efficient supply method. Europe is interested in Ukraine's economic recovery, but its broken model today doesn't need to be preserved.

Others argue that pipelines and Nord Stream 2 are less relevant due to the growing liquefied natural gases market (LNG). LNG can be shipped all over the globe. These developments offer some cause for reflection.

The majority of LNG is locked in long-term contracts, with the majority destined for Asia. China was driven to buy up all the remaining stock as it emerged from the global pandemic. Brazil contributed to the shortage by using LNG to generate electricity normally produced by hydropower dams.

Putin is not the man Europe wants to do business. However, the global energy crisis has given Putin and his pet project a strong negotiating position that could force Europe to take a stand.

BA might regret its lack of generosity

The Competition and Markets Authority found that Ryanair and British Airways, two of the UK's largest airlines, did not violate the law by refusing to refund customers who were prohibited by Covid rules to take the flights they booked. The airlines were not vindicated. Only a lack in legal clarity and a uncertain court battle led to the CMA dropping its investigation and declaring that passengers had been unfairly excluded.

While some may view this as a demonstration that a CMA is toothless, neither the government nor airlines emerge from the chapter looking great. BA called the CMA inquiry at a time when it had been stifled by travel bans, making redundancies unbelievable. Ryanair maintained that it was providing flights and following the law with greater conviction.

They offered the most generous terms and conditions, including free rebooking and refunds for millions of flights cancelled. They were suddenly forced to change government travel rules, causing chaos in their own schedules. A fine would not have been as significant as the loss of billions to airlines during the pandemic.

The picture is also complicated by a wider consumer behavior. Travel was allowed for essential international travel, and people who had to fly were able to accept the hardships of quarantine. Many holidaymakers saw flexible Covid policies, as an alternative to risky cancellations in the summer, as a way to save money.

However, many will be unjustly hurt by situations that were not covered by their insurance policies. Low expectations are included for Ryanair low-fare flights. BA should feel resentful, but customers may perceive BA as not meeting a higher standard. Long-term, it may be possible for more generous competitors to reap the benefits.

Dave, we have a small problem saving Christmas

He was able to rescue the UK's largest supermarket from a hole. Now the government hopes Dave Lewis can save Christmas. The former Tesco boss was appointed a supply chain tsar to address a staff shortage crisis. Although it started with lorry drivers but now retailers are struggling to hire warehouse workers with special skills like forklift truckers.

Many people who had previously come from Europe to work seasonal jobs can now find more lucrative and better opportunities elsewhere. The government's slow and inept response to the problem is forcing the industry to find creative solutions.

Tesco last week acknowledged its investments in rail freight as having helped it weather the worst of the supply-chain crisis. It plans to increase the number containers it transports via train from 65,000 per year to 90,000.

The supermarket isn't the only one looking for new ideas. John Lewis, the latest business to create a driver academy last week, hopes to get 90 more people behind a lorry each year.

Ikea plans to move some furniture production from the Far East to Turkey, cutting down on the shipping distance. Ocado invested 10 million in Wayve, a self-driving vehicle startup. It will test four vans in London in the next months with human operators.

These ideas offer a small-fry solution to the battle for workers, which has resulted in pay increases and big bonuses for some previously underpaid or under-appreciated employees.

Driving lorries in the UK is more appealing over the long-term, however. It's not surprising that highly-sought-after drivers choose to drive elsewhere when even basic amenities like toilets and washing facilities are far below the standard. Lewis could do worse than to go to the loos.