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Fuel poverty

Keith Parkins | 15.09.2008 15:03 | Climate Chaos | Ecology | Social Struggles

Many households this winter are going to shiver in the cold because they cannot meet rising fuel bills.

Announced with much fanfare, when it was finally released last week, the initiative on fuel poverty was seen to be a damp squib. It was typical Gordon Brown, spin, prevarication, followed by let down.

There was to be no direct help for those on fuel poverty unable to pay their fuel bills this winter. Whilst improvement in insulation and energy efficiency are welcome and a small step in the right direction, it does nothing to help people who need help now, who struggled to pay energy bills last winter and are unlikely to get through this winter without the threat of disconnection.

Last winter, those on benefits struggled to make it through the winter. With rising food bills they have struggled to make it through the summer, and often found themselves playing catch up to avoid disconnection for unpaid fuel bills for last winter. How are they to make it through this winter?

Close to a billion pounds sounds a lot of money. It is is not, it works out at 30p per week for the poorest families, those that most need help.

Free insulation for the elderly? Only if you are over 75!

The money allocated to Warm Front had been cut. That announced as new money only makes up for the previous cuts!

Much garbage has been spoken on a windfall tax for energy companies, that it will distort their investment plans. What is conveniently forgotten is that with the sharp rise in the price of oil, they have received unexpected windfall profits.

Most energy companies have recently announced price hikes of 30% or more. This in addition to the price hikes early in the year. In France, EDF has been restricted by Presidential decree to price increase of only 5%!

Energy companies plead they need the money for future investment (to make up for decades of profit taking and low investment), that there will be power cuts and the lights will go out.

Even if true, it takes from inception, through planning to build a decade or more to bring new power plants on stream. We can bridge the energy gap much quicker with appropriately scaled alternative energy sources and renewable and through energy saving.

The money Gordon Brown has extracted from the energy companies with one hand, the energy companies have said they will pass on to their consumers with the other hand.

What we are seeing is the folly of placing a strategic asset in the private sector.

Reference and further reading

Keith Parkins, Energy tax, February 1999

Keith Parkins, Soft energy paths, May 2001

Keith Parkins, Brittle power, October 2003

Keith Parkins, Beyond sustainability, to be published

Keith Parkins
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