by Bruce Gagnon
June 16, 2008
The hottest topic in Maine these days is the mounting cost of home heating fuel. The cost of home heating oil is actually going up faster than the cost of gasoline and Mainers largely heat their homes with oil. The northeast is the part of the country most reliant on heating oil.
The price per gallon of heating oil on June 9 was $4.459. The price last year on May 30 was $2.32 per gallon. You can imagine the cost to fill a 250-gallon tank.
The paper mill in Millinocket, Maine has announced it will soon close its doors due to the rising cost of oil.
Added to all this of course is the rising cost of food. On my trips to the local grocery store it is amazing that even a box of pasta has gone up more than 30 cents in recent weeks. That is not a good sign for me – the pasta lover.
Seriously though, poor and working class people are going to suffer this coming winter. Not only will they not be able to afford to fill the tanks in their cars, they also won’t be able to fill their heating oil tanks. When that happens pipes begin to freeze and all hell starts to break loose. State and local governments are in no position to be of much help. Local churches don’t have near the resources they will need to help either.
We are already seeing the results. Someone recently went into our basement and stole several hundred dollars worth of power tools that belong to one of our housemates. When people can’t afford food and heating oil we will see more of this.
Living in the northeast puts us right in the middle of the decline and fall of America. Our roads have big potholes in them and the state has no money to repair them. Bridges all over New England are in dire need of repair but states, with their declining tax bases as corporations move jobs overseas, are in no position to fix them. If states try to raise taxes to deal with these problems then the public understandably howls in opposition.
Just today we ordered a second wood stove for our house figuring that we will have to keep our oil furnace down to about 52 degrees all winter and will need to heat as much as possible with wood. When I went to order two more cords of wood I found that the prices of even green wood are also rising and wood dealers are so backed up their waiting lists are 2-3 months long.
We are going to have to get another roommate in our house – making it five people in our intentional community and we are already predicting that we will be taking in people this winter who lose their homes because of the collapsing economy.
It was inevitable that the “American” way of life had to come back down to Earth at some point but what makes it all the worse is that the U.S. government is throwing away $14 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan which would go a long way in creating a solar, windmill, conservation, and rail transit society that could alleviate much of the suffering that is coming our way.
On the hopeful side everyone is talking about windmills and conservation these days. On the sad side though few people, outside of the peace movement, are regularly calling for conversion of the military industry complex so that we can free our nation’s resources to deal with the coming storm.
Unless we cut military spending where in the world will the money come from to put a dent in the crippling cost of energy?