Friday, August 15, 2008

Fuel Poverty


Fuel Poverty

As a first effort at writing a post in which I try to tie the core subject of this blog (sustainable energy) to poverty, I am looking at a fairly new manifestation of poverty recently being defined in the so-called developed nations. This poverty is - fuel poverty or energy poverty.


“A fuel poor household is one which cannot afford to keep adequately warm at reasonable cost. The term is mainly used in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, although the concept also applies in much of Eastern Europe and the USA.”

In an article in the Observer by Tim Webb on 20 January last, it stated that 1 in 6 of British households is living in fuel poverty. The definition of fuel poverty is: “when a household spends more than a tenth of its income on utility bills”. The piece goes on to quote: “there are now about 4.4 million of these in the UK, with just over 3 million in England alone. “

Causes of Fuel Poverty.

The price of fuel is of course the first answer that springs to mind. But what has caused the crazy sky-rocketing of fuel prices so destabilising our very civilization?

Speculation – Speculation – Speculation. The price of crude oil rapidly reached $147 a barrel based on nothing else other than a poker game by the fat and rich, betting on the “market”. The real price of oil is estimated to be around 70 to 80 dollars a barrel. Of course when oil prices went up- so did coal, gas, electricity, transport costs and just about everything else.

The second major cause is - - - GREED. The super rich players start the "feeding frenzy" then the smaller sharks and piranha move in to devour. Ireland has two major famines in it's recent history. It is only too familiar with the class of individuals who were prepared to profit from the situation. The "Gombeen Men" as they were called. Wall Street and other world markets would appear to be a natural homeland for the species.

Playing with lives.

It may be a game to them, a way of doing business, or as the Mafia say when taking care of a rival. "nothing personal" But the stock market speculating of mega rich is playing with people’s lives.

In the better off countries like the UK, it may be just an inconvenience and a bit of hardship – but in the really poor countries, it is human life that these "players" are playing with. The price of life sustaining essentials like cooking oil and rice have risen dramatically as a result of this betting game – people are hungry and some will die - while the fat get fatter.

Time to Ban Speculation on Essentials?

Is it time for a worldwide ban on commodity speculation, at least on the essentials? Can we allow the toss of a dice in Wall Street cause people’s deaths? I think it is time for change – what do you think? Are you one of the four and a half million in the UK that will go cold this winter?

National security and indeed global security depends on stability. Are we going to allow the rich to play with our lives?

Sustainable Fuel Poverty?

As a foot note to this post I simply quote again from the excellent definition on Wikipedia: Wikipedia continues:

“The most effective way of combating fuel poverty, if one excludes forcible rehousing, is to target energy efficiency measures on homes typically occupied by those on low incomes. A home with a very low energy requirement to provide adequate warmth can generally be occupied by those on relatively low incomes without leading to fuel poverty. The sharp rise in fuel prices from 2006-8 has led to an estimated doubling of the numbers in fuel poverty in countries where it is a major problem.”

Hopefully the politician will awaken soon - do you think?


No comments: