Gilbert Doctorow: Cost of Living in Europe and Further Aid to Ukraine

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      Passionate Progressive
      • Total Posts: 5,499

      The single largest contingent of readers of my essays is in the United States, and it is for their particular benefit that I open today’s piece with some concrete facts on how Europe’s self-imposed energy crisis resulting from the ban on import of Russian hydrocarbons is making it impossible for your average citizen of France, Belgium and many other countries in the EU to make ends meet. I hasten to add that the unworkable arithmetic of monthly household finance is day by day, week by week bringing us to the social unrest and political instability that I and others have been predicting ever since the trend lines on cost of living became clear some months ago.

      I will not introduce official statistics, because when the going gets tough they tend to be presented in a very selective manner by the authorities. My ‘anecdotal’ evidence comes from the energy bills I am now receiving at my home in Brussels and from what friends and acquaintances in this country and in France tell me about their personal situations.

      A couple of weeks ago, I received from Engie, the French based energy giant that owns Electrabel, the formerly independent Belgian electricity generator and distributor, a report on my annual electricity consumption for their accounting year ending on 7 October 2022. The total charges were 1807 euros, meaning 150 euros per month. In the same communication, they informed me that the new rates applied to the coming year will require a 285 euro debit from my bank each month. Presto, my electricity bill doubles!

      Meanwhile, my latest delivery of 1,000 liters of heating oil for our house was invoiced at 1,500 euros, which is also virtually double what I paid for oil one year ago. And I consider myself lucky that I did not follow the advice of various heating specialists who visited my home a year ago for maintenance work on our furnace. They had suggested that we go ‘modern’ and convert from oil to natural gas, because for seniors like myself that spares us the necessity of monitoring the level of mazout remaining in our basement tank so as to place a delivery order on time. If you order too early, the minimum quantity of 1,000 liters will not fit and you are charged a premium for the delivery of a short order. If you order too late, the sludge at the bottom of the tank may feed into the system, blocking the filter on the way to the point of ignition and you have to bring in a repair man at the cost of several hundred euros. Natural gas, I was told, would spare us these inconveniences. Of course, today gas heating is not double but triple or more the cost it was a year ago, and friends who ‘went modern’ rue that decision. If there will be gas shortages this winter, which remains a possibility depending on the severity of the frosts ahead, these friends will also regret the inconvenience of heating cut-offs leaving them in the cold, literally and figuratively.


      The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.....Martin Luther King '63

      It takes all the technical proficiency our system can provide to make up for the woeful lack of popular support and political savvy of most of the regimes that the West has thus far sought to prop up.........Bernard Fall

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