Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rising heat over heating bills

The churches used to explain God’s motives as inexplicable to us simple mortals. Now Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, says: “I do understand when people feel that this is inexplicable,” in regards to the domestic energy bills that workers now face paying.

 But the reason why bills are rocketing is not inexplicable - it’s very easy to explain. It’s called profiteering. The energy companies are hiking our bills because they can. And they know that the current UK government, which always puts profits before people, won’t do anything to stop them. After all, It’s easy to be blase about sky-high heating bills when you’re a millionaire, as more than two-thirds of the current UK Cabinet are. In 2011, then-Energy Minister Chris Huhne, another very rich Cabinet member, criticised members of the public for not spending more time on seeking out better energy deals.  "They do not bother," Huhne said in an interview. "They spend less time shopping around for a bill that's on average more than £1,000 a year than they would shop around for a £25 toaster," declared the snobbish politician, who in 2013 was sent to prison for perverting the course of justice after seeking to avoid penalty points on his driving licence.

First it was Scottish Southern Electric (SSE), which hiked its domestic bills by 8.2 percent.  Then the formerly state-owned British Gas announced a 10.4 percent rise in electricity bills and an 8.4 percent hike in gas bills. Now, today, the third of the so-called Big Six energy companies operating in the UK, German-owned Npower, has said it will raise its electricity and gas prices by 9.3 percent and 11 percent respectively.

Between August and December 2012, the Big Six announced price rises of between 6 percent and 10.8 percent. In August 2011, British Gas raised its gas and electricity prices by an average of 18 percent and 16 percent. In December 2010, SSE raised gas prices by 9.4 percent, while British Gas put its gas and electricity prices up by 7 percent.

 Forget the old excuse that companies are being forced to raise prices because of rising wholesale prices: wholesale prices of gas and electricity are only marginally higher now than they were back in 2009.  Stephen Fitzpatrick, the founder of a small energy company, Ovo Energy, told the BBC that he had not seen a wholesale price rise for over two years. “If they're buying more expensive gas, more expensive electricity, in a large part we think this is because they're selling it to themselves," he said.

 Around 5.3 million households in Britain live in fuel poverty and the number continues to rise. Last December, the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group estimated that 9 million people would be living in fuel poverty by 2016. The latest price hikes mean more misery and the likelihood of more people losing their lives this winter due to inadequately heated homes.

Are we just going to sit back and allow people to freeze to death this winter because of the profiteering of a handful of greedy companies? Or are we going to demand the political changes which will lead to an end of the current iniquitous capitalist system?

Slightly adapted from here

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