Fuel poverty: Real pressure is on those with low incomes

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Low income households will feel the pinch with escalating fuel costs - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The gas crisis exposes the vulnerable nature of the global economy. Supply and demand should balance to give sensible prices, but it can go horribly wrong! The supply of gas has come to a crunch, triggering crisis pricing, though regulation prevents UK consumers being too badly affected for the moment. There is not really a shortage of gas, but "market forces" have made a crisis out of a spike in demand. Apparently, a quarter of UK gas relies on liquified gas shipped in, but China is now paying however much is needed to have all the available gas taken to China!

Market forces seem to bypass the connection between the cost of production and the selling price. But the money that changes hands is real - so who gets the extra payments from the present escalation of gas prices? Experts need to answer that, but a quick trawl on the internet shows British and Norwegian gas suppliers provide 75% of UK needs, so the British Gas wholesale department may be among the winners!

The low cost alternative suppliers were obviously gambling on the price of gas, but they were doomed to bankruptcy once the price they had to pay seriously exceeded the price at which they agreed to sell. Their customers have been reallocated to larger companies, but now must pay the higher price they hoped to avoid.

The media gives misleading anecdotes which distort the news; a lady in a flimsy dress complaining that she will need an extra jumper when the fuel prices rise does not make the right point. When we lived in the USA in 1980, we had a family rule to increase the thermostat whenever the doorbell rang; Americans did not stay long in our British temperature! COP26 will tell us all to cool off to reduce Global warming.

The real pressure is on those with low incomes, whether needing benefits or not, trying to balance a budget while escalating fuel costs drive up other prices as well. Housing costs are also out of control. Fortunately there is help at hand. I hesitate to use the word charity; it is simply those of us who could afford to pay more tax passing money to those that need it through various groups, just as indigenous peoples have done around the campfire long before the Christian message could have reached them.

Citizens' Advice and EDDC are the obvious first places for help after gas suppliers, any of which could signpost to available support. The Food Bank is another resource, though primarily for food. There will be many problems this winter, but we should also remember those much worse off than ourselves. Lebanon has just reported (October 9) its national electricity has failed completely due to lack of fuel. At least most of us do have another woolly jumper or two.

Democracy, capitalism and the free market are not working globally - the same problem Einstein saw in Newtonian physics. Relativity and quantum mechanics defy simple explanations, but smart phones do work! The free market needs controls; capitalism allows wealth to be amassed beyond usefulness; democracy allows the majority to override minority groups. We need an economic Einstein to revise the rules to admit the poor, the homeless, the disabled, mentally disturbed and others back into society.

Or should we just refer back 2,000 years to the time of Christ and his teaching?

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