Speedy approval of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline linking Russia with Germany could help bring down natural gas prices, a top Russian official said as Europe scrambles to address an escalating energy crisis. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Wednesday that “early completion of the certification” for Nord Stream 2 would help “cool off the current situation.” The pipeline, which runs from Russia under the Baltic Sea and into Germany, is awaiting clearance from German authorities. Nord Stream 2 was completed last month despite years of opposition from countries including the United States, which warned that it would boost Moscow’s influence in Europe. The Biden administration announced in July that it had reached a deal with Berlin that would allow the pipeline to go ahead in exchange for German assistance to Ukraine. Now, the undersea pipeline could play a role in calming gas prices. Natural gas prices in Europe have increased more than 130% since the beginning of September and are more than eight times higher than at the same point last year, according to data from Independent Commodity Intelligence Services. “This price shock is an unexpected crisis at a critical juncture,” EU energy chief Kadri Simson said Wednesday, confirming the bloc will outline its longer-term policy response next week. “The immediate priority should be to mitigate social impacts and protect vulnerable households.” Gas prices dropped after Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted on Wednesday that Russia could increase its output, saying that state-owned gas giant Gazprom has never “refused to increase supplies to its consumers if they submit appropriate bids.” Putin added that Russia has always been “a reliable supplier of gas to its consumers all over the world.” Asked on Thursday about a potential boost to exports, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “it all depends on requests, on contractual obligations and commercial agreements.” — Chris Liakos and Julia Horowitz contributed reporting.