As John McCain and the Republicans trumpet their election year boldfacedlie–drill now so we can lower prices at the pump today–they continueto ignore a looming energy disaster with lives hanging in the balance.
Currently, eight million homes rely on heating oil during the winter months, and last winter’s prices forced too many citizens to choose between heat, food, and medicine .
According to the New York Times, heating oil prices are now 36percent higher than they were last winter and bills will be up to $1500 higher than they were last year. As for the 54 million households heating withnatural gas, prices are expected to be 67 percent higher this winter. Current funding for the Low Income Heating EnergyAssistance Program (LIHEAP) is below 1980’s levels–“a time when fuelprices were just a tiny fraction of what they are now,” The Timberjaynewspapers point out. In fact, last year’s $2.5 billion in LIHEAPfunding allowed just 16 percent of eligible recipients to receive aid. Congressional representatives of New England states have sought as muchas $6.5 billion in additional LIHEAP funding to meet the anticipated needs of the upcoming winter. With both lower-income and middle-class people now unable to afford this basic necessity–a requirement for security in one’s own home–newspapers in the Northeast are sounding a clarion call to head-off the impending disaster.
As the Boston Globe wrote in an editorial this month:
The country had a few days to prepare for Hurricane Katrina, and failed. It has more than three months to prepare for this frozen Katrina, and there will be no excuse this time…. A frozen Katrina will be measured in hypothermia cases and malnutrition or unfilled prescriptions if the poor are forced to spend grocery or medicine money on fuel.
“It could be New England’s own Katrina disaster,” read a Stowe Reporter editorial. “Hundreds of homes rendered uninhabitable, families’ finances stretched to the limit, some driven away altogether to take shelter with friends or family. But unlike Katrina, this calamity is clearly visible on the horizon and we have months to prepare.”