Clearly Erie County residents are interested in the issue of what is being done so the "average Joe" can afford to heat their home this winter. One hundred and sixty people attended the public forum Sept. 8, "Affording Home Heating: What's In Our Future - Part II."
Although there are baby steps being taken to move us in the right direction (Senate Bill 221) requiring the use of more renewable energy as a state and implementing provisions for improved conservation, this bill itself provides too little for our current condition. In some respects SB221 is detrimental to affordability.
(BLOGGER'S SIDE NOTE: Please attend Ohio Consumers Counsel public forum at 6:00 p.m September 23, Sandusky Firelands Association of Realtors' Hall, 2710 Campbell Street, Sandusky for a more complete understanding of SB 221. (www.pickocc.org) hear about comparisons between proposed regulated rates and how the market will help achieve the lowest costs of the two options for consumers. Also, you'll learn how those ideas were not written into the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's staff's draft rules and how the potential for higher electric rates threatens the affordability of service for low- and middle-income households)
Tim Brown, Director of Social Services at the Erie-Huron CAC announced that a 55 million dollar cut in heating subsidies is taking place for Ohioans living within 150 percent to 175 percent of the federal poverty guideline. To put that in practical terms, a household of one with a gross annual income ranging from $15,600 to $18,200 a year will get very little in terms of heating assistance between November 2008 and April 2009.
Subsidies work in the short term and it's easy to understand low-income households, especially older people and the disabled, need the intervention of a heating subsidy. But the long-term subsidies only prop up the price of home heating, feeding the business side and gouging the consumer side. Ultimately the answer is to move off of our reliance of First Energy, Columbia Gas and associated suppliers of propane and fuel oil. The good news is we can, if we have a champion willing to take up this platform.
The panelists and an audience member at the forum explained that they already have innovations that would make us less reliant on the our home heating businesses mentioned above. There is a new urban windmill that is ready for market and can generate electricity for commercial and industrial uses, hence, allowing businesses to be free of First Energy for its electric needs. The innovation is called the "WindCube" and is designed to be used in an urban setting. A residential "WindCube" is in the making.
Another innovation is "in process" which uses a residential-size greenhouse with a few solar panels as a generator of heat. The heat that is collected is then stored in the homeowner's back yard in an underground mass of concrete that is hyper insulated. The heat can be pumped off of this thermal mass and brought into the home with a heat pump. And it can be done on demand. No natural gas, propane or fuel oil required. Just enough electricity to run the heat pump. An audience member spoke of the amount of energy that is currently available in our landfill, but politics and bureaucrats are keeping this alternative from becoming mainstream.
The opportunities exist to be free of high priced home heating fuel. The only thing missing is a champion. Someone in a position of power and influence (or will be in a position of power and influence — remember this is an election year). Someone who understands the difference between spending and investing. Someone who has the political courage to grab this bull (also known as the politicians and bureaucrats) by the horns and fight it!
My questions is this, is anyone out there?