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Revolution reminds us of the need for energy security

Fuel poverty and ethical foreign policy

Many who oppose renewable energy do so on either cost grounds, aesthetics, or a denial of the need to reduce our carbon emissions. But as well as the human costs in relying on energy imports (some of the ethical ones I have already talked about), there are financial costs too in not investing in renewables. A lack of energy security always springs to my mind when unrest around the world causes oil costs to rise.

Fuel poverty is defined in the UK as a household spending more than 10% of its income on fuel to warm a home to a satisfactory standard. In rural areas away from the grid this often means oil. In the 12 years I have owned my home, heating oil has more than tripled in price. Even for those on the gas grid, rising energy costs have impacted considerably on people's standard of living. In the UK, one in six homes are in fuel poverty. Energy prices fluctuate too in response to world events: recent unrest in Egypt and Libya has been felt by economies all over the world - every dollar that a barrel of oil increases in cost sends thousands more into fuel poverty. Household income and energy efficiency also affect fuel poverty of course, but I am putting them to one side for the moment.

There are many strong arguments that can be used to persuade governments and their people to take a stable, clean, energy supply seriously, irrespective of any climate change ones. For me, the ethical arguments alone are powerful. But the vast majority of ordinary people are often only mobilised in their thinking on an issue when it hits their pockets.

Let's reduce fuel poverty, and it's associated social and health impacts, by decoupling our energy supply from unstable regions of the world. And if nature, climate, human rights, and improved foreign policy are beneficiaries too, it's surely a win-win scenario?


This is just one of the stories from my energy talk

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