What do we reckon about.... rising fuel and energy prices?

Whether it's electricity, gas or petroleum, it often seems that barely a few weeks pass, before we hear yet again that suppliers are putting their prices up. In today's expectations-driven world, it seems that the slightest economic shock is sufficient to produce a hike. Here in England, gas and electricity prices rose by around 7% at the end of 2010. And now, rises of 18% and 16% respectively are in the wind for August. The price of petrol at the pumps also continues to soar.

All of this is happening in a recession-dampened environment, where the British Government's target CPI inflation rate is running at around 4.5%, and the oil and energy companies continue to make enormous, record profits.

My wife Debi is disabled, and to be honest, it makes me angry that these everyday essentials seem to be the subject of sheer greed on the part of these faceless organisations. After all, they aren't so quick to put their prices down, once the latest shock has passed.

I remember phoning my current gas and electricity supplier Southern Electric, when towards the end of the last decade, oil prices reached a record high. They increased prices by 25% in response to that, and I asked them why their prices hadn't been reduced, when the cost per barrel of oil slumped, just a short time later. 'Well, Mr. Stone,' the adviser began, 'the current legislation from the Government regulator means that we can increase our prices when we need to in just one day, but we can only reduce prices once per year. We are planning to reduce our prices by 9% in the forseeable future.'

Some months later, Southern Electric did indeed reduce their prices, but what happened to the missing 16%? It fuelled their quest for ever-exploding monopoly profits, of course. Don't the energy companies know that people, young and old are struggling to keep themselves warm each winter? Don't the oil companies know that on either side of the pond, they are driving people off the road? Don't they know that many people are actually being forced to give up their jobs, because the mushrooming cost of commuting makes it simply not worthwhile anymore - you read examples of this on Twitter all the time.

So what's the answer?

Well, the truth is that the oil and energy companies are colluding with their competitors to keep prices high, so they can share out the booty. When one supplier raises prices, its competitors follow suit. When a supplier lowers its price, the competition tend to tag along. Perhaps the collusion is active, in that they're actually talking to each other about it. Perhaps it's passive, and they're just reacting to developments.

Either way, it doesn't matter to the poor consumer, who is forever lining their Scrooge-like pockets of gold. It can't be right that an effective monopoly between a small number of large, powerful organisations means that they can do whatever they please with the price of such important products. This is particularly true in Britain, where the regulator seems powerless to act, and actually appears to help these companies achieve their selfish goals.

On either side of the Atlantic, it's high time David Cameron and Barack Obama took action, to force the fuel and energy companies to manufacture their products for the people, rather than for the benefit of the shareholders. In Britain, the whole matter should quickly be referred to the Competition Commission - not necessarily to break the industries up, but to make sure they operate in the interest of the consumer. Any action would of course need teeth and speed, rather than bluster and delay....

For a shocking update on this story, please visit http://t.co/g9gLyD3

And if you enjoyed reading this, try my posts on the recession;

Also, please take a look at my series of science fiction adventure novels, at http://steven-stone.blogspot.com/. These great time travel stories are available from just $1.99=£1.20!

For further information on my novel 'Intrepid', a top 100 Kindle bestseller in science fiction, military and war, see;
Premise - http://stevestonechat.blogspot.com/2011/06/premise-for-novel-intrepid.html
Review - http://stevestonechat.blogspot.com/2011/06/review-of-novel-intrepid-by-martin-ince.html

For further information on the sequel 'Intrepid - The Two Storms', see;
Premise - http://stevestonechat.blogspot.com/2011/06/premise-for-novel-intrepid-two-storms.html
Review - http://stevestonechat.blogspot.com/2011/06/martin-ince-review-of-novel-intrepid.html

The illustrative graph used in this post was sourced from http://www.whatgas.com/

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