Hundreds of Thousands Denied Power

May 24, 2008

Hundreds of thousands of people across the country have been or will soon be forced to go without basic utilities as companies are initiating service disconnections en masse. The arrival of warm weather means that shut-offs are now being implemented even in those areas with provisions prohibiting winter disconnections.

In addition to the burden of high food and gas prices, the immediate problem for many is that they cannot pay the exorbitant heating bills accrued over the winter months. In many parts of the country the local utility controls electric as well as gas service which means that many people will lose not only home heat, hot water and the stove, but also lights, refrigeration, air conditioning, etc.

The high price of home heating sources is ultimately a result of the same price gouging by the big oil and gas capitalists that has meant over $4/gallon prices at the gas pump. A handful of giant companies dominate all facets of the oil and gas industry and use their monopoly position to extort ever-higher prices out of the American people. According to Energy Information Administration forecasts made in December, the average American household was expected to pay nearly $1,000 for winter heating costs, and those who use heating oil were expected to pay nearly $2,000.

To make matters worse, the government at all levels has shred and all but eliminated any social safety net. When emergency energy assistance is available at all, the government provides only miserly funds so there is little or no relief.

Today, it shouldn't have to be said that anyone has to go without such necessities as home utilities. Our society has all the needed resources, including the modern infrastructure required to guarantee these basic rights for all.

Yet more, the electrical grids and the entire energy generation and distribution infrastructure, as well as the oil and gas industries, have been created through public investment and the collective labor of the country; they belong to the people by right. At a minimum, a moratorium on utility disconnections must be declared.

Furthermore, the public interest dictates that the availability and cost of such necessities cannot be left to the arbitrary ups and downs of the market or the price gouging by the capitalist monopolies. Price controls over home utilities (as well as gas at the pumps) must be set by the government to guarantee that everyone can get these commodities at the lowest possible cost.

To fundamentally solve the problem, the entire energy infrastructure of the country, including the oil and gas industries, must be taken out of the hands of the capitalists and returned to the public. These industries must be run on the basis of meeting the needs of the people and not to extract profit for the capitalists.