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Fuel Poverty

I spent a long time in the car on Friday and, in between various CDs, I was listening to the radio. A major theme was “fuel poverty” in the UK, which was defined as a family that has to spend 10% or more of its income on fuel.

The government was being criticised for not making sufficient progress on tackling this. However, I did notice a couple of things that weren’t discussed. Firstly, whether “fuel” includes petrol costs as well as household fuel bills. Secondly, whether this measure of fuel poverty takes into account a reasonable level of usage. If a low-income family has numerous electronic gadgets, including several TVs that are rarely off, and keeps the heating at tropical levels they could easily pass the 10% threshold. However, is it truly poverty if the cause is wanton consumption?

I know that fuel prices have gone up significantly. Our last gas bill was significantly higher than a couple of years ago although we had actually made a reduction in the number of units used. However, in the debates about fuel poverty I think politicians and the media have a responsibility to remind people of the importance of being sparing with energy use. If our society could deal with over-consumption it would be much easier to pinpoint where actual poverty exists.

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