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Oil price threatens countryside deaths – official

[Monday 15 September 2008]

THE huge increase in world energy prices could mean the deaths of thousands of people in the countryside this winter if the weather turns bad, according to a startling prediction from the Government-appointed Commission for Rural Communities.

Although most people in urban areas or larger villages have access to heating via the gas mains, there are still hundreds of thousands of country folk who rely on oil for heating and cooking on Aga-like stoves. Some still rely on diesel generators for their electricity.

And although the price of gas has leaped by up to 40%, oil prices have doubled in some areas and that could mean that poorer rural residents can no longer afford to fill their tanks at a cost often running into hundreds of pounds.

This, says the Commission, will cause a leap in the number of deaths from cold-related diseases. In a barely disguised attack on the Government’s failure to live up to promises to help people in so-called “fuel poverty,” it claims could mean that thousands of country folk could die of cold-induced illness.

Says commission adviser Will Ashton: “Most rural families have lower incomes than average. And those not on the central gas network are forced to pay more for fuel. Many more people will die this winter and a disproportionate number will live in the countryside.”

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