Over five million families in Britain experience fuel poverty, spending more than 10 per cent of their income on warming homes, according to the government's own figures.
But the fact that the most up-to-date figures that the Department of Energy and Climate Change has are for 2009 means that these figures are of historical interest only.
The situation must already be worse, given the rising prices for both gas and electricity and the squeeze on pay applied throughout public and private sectors of the economy.
Restraint has been the ruling class watchword but not when it comes to the oligopoly of energy companies.
Their defence is always "market forces," as they point out that wholesale energy prices have risen, although they never react so quickly by reducing tariffs when wholesale costs fall.
And why should they?
Which corporate vulture would allow carrion to fall willingly from its beak unless there was outside compulsion?
Energy regulator Ofgem is a joke, playing along with the pretence of control but more concerned
with parroting the excuses made by the privateers.
New Labour and the Con-Dem coalition have been indistinguishable in their attitudes to these bloodsuckers that have grown fat on the back of assets that were built up under public ownership.
Ministers put on their caring faces and voices, whisper platitudes about markets needing to work more efficiently and allow the profiteers to continue milking the rest of us.
It was Climate Change Minister Greg Barker's turn to spout this drivel today and it was no more convincing this time than any other over the past quarter-century.
The minister is apparently "pushing for stronger competition to keep price rises as low as possible," wouldn't you know?
And his pushing will be just as ineffectual as that of every other puffed-up ministerial advocate of market forces as the silver bullet to slay the energy inflation dragon.
He gushed about his department's latest gimmick, the Warm Home Discount, "which will require the Big Six energy companies to provide discounts of at least £120 to about 600,000 of the poorest pensioners."
The minister knows that this is a pin prick that the energy companies will barely notice.
Even the government's own Committee on Climate Change insists that a major mobilisation is necessary to insulate all lofts and cavity walls by 2015 and 2 million solid walls by 2020 as part of the Green Deal.
Unless pressure is exerted on the energy companies to guarantee this level of insulation, hard-pressed consumers will still be impoverishing themselves by spending a quarter of their energy bills on heating the outside of their homes.
British Gas and Scottish Power have already announced double-digit tariff rises for gas and electricity, despite stupendous profit levels.
When the other equally profitable companies take their turn at the trough, fuel poverty will rise steeply, hitting between 6 and 7 million households.
This cannot be allowed to continue.
It's not an abstract problem.
It is expressed concretely every year by the numbers of old people who die of hypothermia, caught on the horns of the dilemma of eating or heating.
Billions of pounds are siphoned in profits by the privateers every year from the provision of energy, which is a natural monopoly.
Public ownership could return these ill-gotten gains to consumers and end the profitable exploitation of people's need to keep warm.
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