Cutoffs and Pleas for Aid Rise With Heat Costs

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After struggling with soaring heating costs through the winter, millions of Americans are behind on electric and gas bills, and a record number of families could face energy shut-offs over the next two months, according to state energy officials and utilities around the country.

The escalating costs of heating oil, propane and kerosene, most commonly used in the Northeast, have posed the greatest burdens, officials say, but natural gas and electricity prices have also climbed at a time when low-end incomes are stagnant and prices have also jumped for food and gasoline.

In New Hampshire, applicants for fuel subsidies under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program received an average of $600 in a one-time grant and up to $975 for the extremely poor who rely on heating oil or propane, the costliest fuels. But those grants, which in recent years have covered 60 percent of heating costs, covered only about 35 percent of those costs this winter, said Celeste Lovett, director of the state’s energy aid program. The state will have given aid to about 34,500 people by the end of April, Ms. Lovett said, a 5 percent increase over last year and the highest number ever.

The most immediate challenge is to help the high number of consumers who are far behind in electric and gas payments, said Mark Wolfe, director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, which represents state aid officials in Washington.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyEnergy, Natural Resources

Posted April 25, 2008 at 9:34 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Baruch wrote:

As a geologist who helped explore the East Coast off New Jersey our first well struck a large gas field. At that time the price of gas and oil were so low we couldn’t afford the pipeline to bring it ashore. It was near the outer edge of the continental shelf at least 100 miles from shore. The government listened to the people of the east who didn’t want oil or gas produced off shore and closed exploration on the Atlantic margin. One driller I heard mutter, “Let em freeze in the dark.” It appears that this is the very situation that is now occuring. As a Christian I feel sorry for these people, but they also brought it on themselves thinking that $3.00 a barrel imported oil would go on forever.

April 25, 4:58 pm | [comment link]
2. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

Fair enough, Baruch, except that those described in this article are unlikely to have had much say in whether or not the New Jersey field was developed. It’s certainly happening in Pittsburgh. Requests for utility support through our Downtown church outreach ministry have been increasing rapidly at Trinity Cathedral. Moreover, some civic utility assistance programs are only operative during the winter months.

April 25, 5:53 pm | [comment link]
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