fuel poverty

This morning I went to wash my feet and ran the hot water in the bath. It was freezing. Come to think of it the house was a bit cold as well.|
This led to that feeling in your gut that you hope isn’t true, but alas it was true.
We had ran out of oil.

Heat had already been playing on my mind this week already. It had cropped up in a number of books. Henry David Thoreau mentioned it in Walden

‘The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to keep the vital heat in us. What pains we accordingly take, not only with our Food, and our Clothing, and Shelter, but with our beds, which are our nightclothes, robbing the nests and breasts of birds to prepare this shelter within a shelter, as the mole has its bed of grass and leaves and the end of its burrow!’

The subject of keeping warm had also made an appearance in ‘A Homage to Catalonia’ where George Orwell describes the hardships of the front line.

‘In trench warfare five things are important: firewood, food, tobacco, candles and the enemy. In winter on the Saragossa front they were important in that order, with the enemy a bad last’

and later

‘Meanwhile, firewood – always firewood. Throughout that period there is probably no entry in my diary that does not mention firewood, or rather the lack of it. We were between two and three thousand feet above sea-level, it was mid-winter and the cold was unspeakable’

Yesterday morning our electricity was cut as NIE carried out maintenance work. As I cooked my pancakes on a camping stove my mind pondered the amount of energy we require to keep warm, to keep our homes heated and comfortable.

Then this morning I discovered the oil tank empty.

I suppose that this reflecting about fuel and the like gets me down. We need to stay warm and staying warm means burning fuel, usually fossil fuels, expensive fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere. And it’s expensive and getting even more expensive. More and more of our income is  tied up in buying polluting, unsustainable fossil fuels to heat our  heat inefficient homes. The main reason we need oil is not even to stay warm, but to dry our clothes with there being no room to for a tumble drier.

There are few (if any) more important things (if any) than staying warm. You can imagine our ancestors huddled in a cave around a campfire thousands of years ago or cutting turf from the bogs of Ireland. This was vitally important work in the days before cheap fuel.

The way we keep warm presently is so unsustainable and there seems to be no serious efforts to make it sustainable. Those little wood burning stoves look the business but Ireland is a tree desert so is there enough wood to go around?

I wandered down around the new Titanic Visitor Centre in Belfast last week and got to thinking if this was a wise use of money?

Part of me was wondering would it not have been a wiser investment for the future of Northern Ireland to use the money (90,000,000 pounds) for something like planting trees and making a forest, or investing in insulating homes or eco homes?

If there are about 700, 000 households that would have been about 125 pounds for each home to install better loft insulation or buy draught excluders etc.

Or to plant a mammoth forest, like acres and acres of forest. John Seymour recommends ash trees as being good for burning and relative quick growing. Plant trees everywhere, no more big buildings I reckon.