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Food or fuel?

A survey of the Netmums website has found that a significant proportion of families are now having to choose between feeding the family and heating their homes.

Soaring energy bills are forcing one in four mothers to turn off their heating in the depths of winter in order to afford food for their children. Fuel poverty is resulting in thousands of families resorting to wearing extra clothes and using blankets in their homes.

Most of the political establishment will view this as a policy success, I imagine, since ever-rising prices is seen as an important objective of energy policy, which will cause people to insulate their homes and so save the planet.

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Reader Comments (15)

Surely that's a small price to pay to make sure our Prime Minister's Daddy-in-Law gets his £1000 per day off his windfarms.

Jan 6, 2013 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterRetired Dave

It is well known, and a fine example of the law of unintended consequences, that insulating homes does not result in lower use of energy. Occupiers of insulated properties know that the insulation is saving them money so that they can now afford to heat their houses to a higher and more comfortable temperature and so don't need to wear so many layers of clothing.

Jan 6, 2013 at 10:34 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Geocachers are people who play a high-tech game of hunt the thimble, hiding little boxes for others to find. Often these are in woods and a dead log is a handy disguise. I have noticed in the last few years that dead wood is vanishing, presumably being scavenged by people short of money who need heat. Nice clean expensive fossil fuel or dirty cheap wood? No contest.

How any government can cling onto the idea that expensive fuel is good for the environment is beyond me, but then I'm not a politician.


Jan 6, 2013 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

Fewer people, and they die earlier. What's not to like about it. :-P

Jan 6, 2013 at 11:01 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I hear the sound of distant tumbrils

Jan 6, 2013 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

If the climate is warming why do we need to insulate our homes?

Jan 6, 2013 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

I have a distant memory of posting a link to remarks made by Chris Huhne a couple of years ago saying he wanted higher energy prices to reduce consumption, can't find it but here is some info from 2010 showing this was all planned.

Huhne admitted that energy prices will initially rise – but emphasised that by 2030, the price will be lower than it would be without any reform.

Critics argue that the cost of implementing the proposals will be passed on to consumers in the short term in the form of higher bills. Household energy bills could rise by £500 in the near term as a result of the reforms, according to the energy price comparison website, uSwitch. "The huge cost of doing this will push up customers' bills," said David Porter, chief executive of the Association of Electricity Producers.

Jan 6, 2013 at 11:47 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

At least in the UK Netmums' respondents have a choice.

Great swathes of our agricultural land hasn't been switched from growing food to growing fuel.

Jan 6, 2013 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

I'm never particularly sold on polls where such a small number of people are asked.

I've had a brief look around the netmums website and sincerely hope the Daily Mail article isn't based on a survey done in November 2011. I haven't yet found a more recent survey looking at this issue.

The Energy Bill Revolution group are pushing for carbon tax revenues to be spent on insulation. Their impressive list of supporting groups has a few we've heard of before.

Jan 6, 2013 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

I recall the talk of increasing prices and also that later they will fall. My response was that if they do fall, unlikely, prices will still rise because the fall is predicated on using less. I do not think the foreign companies that now supply us will accept a drop in profits from milch cow England. I suppose this could qualify for the Guinness Book of Records as the largest fraud of all time.

Jan 6, 2013 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDerek Buxton

"...ever-rising prices is seen as an important objective of energy policy, which will cause people to insulate their homes and so save the planet."

Many families are existing financially week to week so can't afford the initial outlay on insulation however much it might "save" them in the long run.

Many of the poorest families live in rented accommodation where the landlord will have little incentive to pay for insulation as they aren't the ones paying the increasing fuel bills for the property.

Jan 6, 2013 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Gareth, I also searched for the original data, without success. Obviously I can't use GWPF or the Mail in any argument against Guardianistas, so without the original data, this survey is unusable.

Jan 6, 2013 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

Killing off the poor is a win win for the NHS and DECC.

Jan 6, 2013 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Derek Buxton - Yes I agree entirely.

The whole of DECC's strategy is based on halving our consumption by 2050 - that was the only way they could make Windmills and Solar look as cheap as doing it properly. While further efficiencies can be found, the only real way to reduce use is raise the price. The whole thing is planned that way.

The reason they are now resisting fracking, rubbishing even the possiblity of cheaper gas, and giving any real support for forms of nuclear, is that it goes against this strategy.

I am looking at the moment (again) at a low energy self-build project which is relatively expensive to build but should be less expensive to run. I note Phillip Bratby's warning above, but a different strategy is needed for such a property, seeking to maintain a stable temperature close to 20/21c instead of the swings that most houses experience with central heating. It maybe that one has to wear a jumper occasionally rather then reach for the on switch. The idea being than only in the coldest weather should much input be needed as personal heat, cooking, TV , PC , fridge/freezer etc. all provide input in a house with a heat recovery ventilation system that evens out throughout the property. There are no free lunches, but some real property case studies have been quite impressive.

And this is where the government's housing standards are complete madness. In the code for sustainable homes by 2016 you will be forced into the use of expensive "renewable" bolt-ons to meet the grade. These "renewables" will include expensive air and ground source heatpumps. A number of surveys have shown that they are no less expensive in use in the real world (despite what it says in the brochure) than a good gas central heating system. They have their place, especially where no mains gas is available - but from 2016 a new property in a rural location will be forced to use a heat pump as LPG systems will be banned. Gas will be penalised in the marking scheme.

I couldn't work out why the government thought this was a sensible way forward, until I read Matt Ridley's excellent piece a year ago -

Heatpumps use electricity - electricity is RENEWABLE, and we need to be able to show the EU that we are meeting our 20% by 2020 renewables commitment. We will have a little from wind/solar, but as Matt points out 80% will come from burning bio-mass. Even Greenpeace and FofE have now seen the flaw in that, after demanding for a decade at least that governments do this.

As someone on here (H/T - step up to receive) said a little while back

"25 years ago Greens were chaining themselves to trees - now they are burning them"

Much will be other bio-mass, but a good % will be wood, and 80% will be imported.

Absolute Madness - you couldn't make it up.

Jan 6, 2013 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRetired Dave

90% imported wood and grass is what Fife Council is proposing for its biomass plants. The rather badly written article by Green Business Fife suggests they have a pretty blinkered view of its overall effects.

"Each plant would cost £325 million to build and the quantities of imported biomass needed to fuel them means that transportation by sea rather than road or rail is seen as the green option.

Biomass is timber, chipped wood and miscanthus grass and these will be brought by sea from Europe and North America. There will also be around 10 per cent of fuel provided by reclaimed timber such as pallets."

Jan 7, 2013 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

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