As heating bills continue to rise and another frozen winter descends on Leeds, it’s worth noting how ridiculous the debate on energy policy has become at the national level. Common sense seems to have become a rarefied commodity over at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and it seems to have abandoned the leaders of political parties almost entirely. We’re told that it should be easier to switch between suppliers, that energy prices should be forced downwards, and that energy companies should behave in a socially responsible manner. Most of the debate has lacked any sense, ignored key figures, and simply panders to the whim of the public. Energy companies are not making exorbitant profits. The profit made by an energy company on the average dual-fuel bill (totalling £1,315) is just £65.
What we need is to approach the situation in an in a dispassionate fashion. Many students are all too familiar with the problem of having to decide between buying a Fruity ticket or heating. The solution? Buy some thermals or a Primark onesie. Yet when David Cameron suggested last month that people might want to consider wearing a sweater indoors to keep warm, he was met with derision which saw his spokesman attempt to quickly mollify an enraged public.
Why is it that just because we can do something, we must? The advances in technology, housing quality, and quality of life made over the last three generations are miraculous. Many still live with memories of housing that lacked insulation, central heating, or even an outdoor toilet, yet they survived. Despite our advances, the proportion of total energy consumed for the purpose of heating rose from 58 percent in 1970 to 66 percent in 2012, suggesting people are heating their houses more than ever before. Today we pay the Winter Fuel Allowance so that those living in so-called ‘fuel poverty’ can heat their homes part-funded by the taxpayer. Might it not be more sensible to send parcels filled with thermal clothes and jumpers? It would certainly be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t heat their homes, but they should certainly heat them less. With global demand for energy climbing, the best approach to keeping down costs is to go back to basics. There is no need to wonder around in vests and shorts, when a onesie does just fine.