POWERGEN, the energy monopoly, is putting up the prices of its gas and electricity services by 18.4 per cent and 9.7 per cent, next Monday. This is the second huge increase this year.
In March, Powergen raised gas prices by 24.4 per cent and electricity prices by 9.7 per cent. Powergen’s gas prices have gone up by 108 per cent and electricity by 61 per cent over the past three years.
The latest price hike means an average gas bill of £644 and £392 for electricity, with households paying more than £1,000 a year for energy.
Powergen, owned by the German multinational Eon, is not the only huge energy company that is hitting poor families and pensioners with massive gas and electricity bills.
At the end of last month, British Gas, part of the Centrica conglomerate, announced that its gas bills will be 12.4 per cent higher and electricity bills 9.4 per cent higher, from September. In March, it too put up gas prices by 22 per cent.
The French-owned multinational EDF raised its gas prices by 19 per cent on July 31.
These energy giants justify these price hikes by pointing to the big rises in wholesale gas prices, up 87 per cent from the beginning of last year, and rocketing oil prices. Yesterday Brent Crude and Texas Light Crude were over $73 a barrel, almost three times the average price before the Iraq war.
In order to keep making profits, the huge multinational monopolies (Eon, Centrica and EDF) are hitting industrial energy users and households with massive bills for gas and electricity. We pay, they profit!.
Higher up the ‘food chain’, the companies that extract gas and oil, like the giant British-owned oil multinationals BP and Shell, are clocking up millions of pounds in profits every hour out of the high world prices of oil and gas.
Those who will be hit hardest by these moves by the rapacious, profit-hungry, energy monopolies will be the poorest sections of the working class.
Those on benefits, like the unemployed and disabled, and pensioners, who are forced to use pre-payment meters will be charged even more than other domestic consumers, who are billed for their energy consumption.
As Help the Aged said yesterday: ‘These latest fuel price increases are just the latest in a long line of inflation-busting rises in household bills which will hit the poorest pensioners hard.
‘. . . many older people will struggle to afford to pay them and still have money left over to afford basics like food and clothes.’
As hefty gas and electricity bills come through the door, workers will recall that today’s plethora of energy brands were created out of the privatisation of the state-owned British Gas and Central Electricity Generating Board, when the Tories privatised these services in the 1980s.
The privateers got gas fields, power stations and distribution networks ‘for a song’ and proceeded to asset strip them and sack hundreds of thousands of skilled workers.
Now the working class is paying the price, because these huge multinational monopolies control energy supplies. This winter there will be more scandals of people dying in their homes from hypothermia or malnutrition.
Yet there is a deafening silence from Labour government ministers about this huge attack on workers’ living standards, because they support this operation of ‘market forces’.
Under these conditions, it is necessary that the trade unions take action to defend both their members’ living standards and those of the poorest people in the country, who rely on benefits and pensions.
The trade unions must call mass strike action to bring down the Blair government, which is the servant of the monopolists, and replace it with a workers’ government that will renationalise these vital services.
Then low gas and electricity prices can be fixed to be affordable for all.