Friday, August 15, 2008

A Frozen Katrina

Up hyar in the mountains, us simple hill folk, well, this simple hill folk anyway, consider August to be the first month of winter even though it was 95°F yesterday.

Huh? August? 95°? Winter!!? Ya lost yer effin' mind? How come ya think like that, Clem?

The answer is in the stars. Orion, considered a 'winter' constellation, has been visible in the morning sky since around August 1st, when Betelgeuse and Bellatrix first recognizably appeared above the eastern horizon just before first light. Can Driekoningen and The Dog be far behind?

Even though there are three months of some of the best weather in California yet to come before the Dreaded First Dump, we'll start heating the joint in September, so the time is now to clean out the chimney and make plans to get out in the woods as soon as they reopen for woodcutting and make the pickup's springs groan and its headlights point at the sky with max loads of firewood if you didn't already in Spring like you should have.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is thinking about this as well. Many links.

As John McCain and the Republicans trumpet their election year boldfaced lie–drill now so we can lower prices at the pump today–they continue to 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 36 percent 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 with natural gas, prices are expected to be 67 percent higher this winter. Current funding for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is below 1980’s levels–”a time when fuel prices were just a tiny fraction of what they are now,” The Timberjay newspapers point out. In fact, last year’s $2.5 billion in LIHEAP funding allowed just 16 percent of eligible recipients to receive aid. Congressional representatives of New England states have sought as much as $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.

The clarion calls follow.

Indeed, the crisis has gotten the attention of Democrats–and some Republicans–in Congress, but an effort to respond was thwarted by yet another GOP Senate filibuster. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tried to increase LIHEAP funding all the way back in November, while President Bush proposed cutting it by $379 million. In March, Sen. Sanders offered a budget amendment that would have rescinded the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest three-tenths of 1 percent of taxpayers and increased LIHEAP funding by $4 billion. Last month, he was the lead sponsor of the Warm in the Winter and Cool in the Summer Act which would double LIHEAP funding, adding $2.5 billion to the program (less than one week’s funding in Iraq). Although President Bush threatened a veto (no surprise there, he has also proposed cutting the weatherization program that helps lower-income families reduce energy consumption over the long-term), there were fifty-two co-sponsors, including thirteen Republicans. Sanders called it a “tripartisan bill” with the majority of Congress, the nation’s governors, AARP and others on board.

But when it came time to vote on the legislation on July 26, there were only fifty votes to end a Republican filibuster–ten shy of the sixty needed to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. The GOP wanted “a vote on legislation that would open up the continental shelf to oil drilling.”

“I understand the games that are played in Washington, but it doesn’t make the obstruction tactics any less revolting,” Sanders said following the vote. “This is life or death. People are dying in the summer heat. People will freeze to death this winter.”

While Republicans continue to push drilling as their election year elixir, real pain, real lives, and real security are ignored.

Ignoring real people in favor of Big Corpora is the way the Repugs roll. People are going to die, or continue to die, because of them.

Even if we vote the bastards out on election day it will be too late for some folks.

I heated my home exclusively with wood for eighteen years, starting the day I found out that the less propane I bought, the more it cost. Wood heat is awful. They say wood heats you twice, when you carry it as well as when you burn it.


By the time you drive way out in the woods, fall the trees, limb 'em, buck 'em, pile the slash, load the truck and unload the truck many times, split and stack the wood, only then do you get to tote it into the house bit by bit and burn it, but by then you have been warmed many, many times. Not to mention constantly cleaning detritus from around the hearth and shoveling snow off the woodpile and access to it.

When you take into account wear and tear on your truck, tires (pine forest fuelwood access roads are not kind to them), chainsaw, clothes, gloves, boots, your body, etc., the time involved, the extra soap and mayonnaise, and on and on, you save money over buying the wood, but it still costs.

If you buy your firewood, it costs nearly as much as heating with gas, which is what I have done since the gas came in. I still keep a supply of wood for the inevitable power outages when the electrically powered gas furnace won't work.

Having just said that wood heat sucks, if the price of natural gas goes up by 67% as predicted in the above article, now that I'm on a fixed income I may have to go back to it. We will see.

I'm still fit enough to lay in my own firewood and feel lucky to be so, but I don't care how physically able the folks in the oil-burning areas are, they can't pump their own heating oil. They're just pretty much screwed.

I hope they remember who's doin' the screwin' on election day.

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