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View Diary: The terrifying implication of the LIHEAP cuts? Thoughts from a WH Call (186 comments)

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    •  Just for Reference: State Laws (14+ / 0-)

      on utility disconnect moratorium and restrictions:

      If health care is not basic necessity, try living without it.

      by Into The Woods on Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 11:41:23 PM PST

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      •  LIHEAP is used for more than (20+ / 0-)

        regulated electricity and natural gas.  People who heat with fuel oil and propane are buying from independent retailers who are not governed by utility disconnect restrictions in many states.  Cash and carry.

        My wife is a propane retailer.  Our choice will be to drop our LIHEAP customers who can't pay or subsidize their heat ourselves, one way or another.  We will see how it goes.

        Liberal, Democrat, Atheist, Socialist, Communist, and Fascist. I'm the whole package.

        by docterry on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 06:08:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here's hoping you guys can supply them, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, radical simplicity

          one way or another. I've been in the position of having to trim seasonally-necessary heating to save on my energy bill, and freezing my knuckles solid as a result. (I have arthritic hands, and if I wanted to do my coursework I couldn't wear gloves.)

          For better or for worse, though, you couldn't set the thermostat any lower than 50 F, and at 40F the all-electric HVAC unit would go into emergency mode and run constantly at full power - which meant although there was always a minimum usage on the bill, at least my roommates and I weren't going to have to worry about burst pipes.

          Do propane or oil heating systems have an emergency fuel reserve built in? (Something you can't use under normal circumstances, but by hitting a big red "Emergency Heat" button you can engage?)

          "Neskon would be a good choice, except he's a flame-trooper. They're all bug-eyed madmen."

          by Shaviv on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 08:47:13 AM PST

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          •  No emergency reserves (0+ / 0-)

            The tanks hold what they hold, nothing fancy inside.  If a customer is between a rock and a hard place we can work with them, but it is not as easy as it used to be.  In the past we could keep a customer at no profit or a small loss when they hit a rough patch, but these days it is very hard to do that for months or even years, and I am afraid we are coming to that.  There is an awful lot of poverty out there, which has been invisible for the last 40 years.

            We are a small, family-owned and run business and ours is a familiar story.  The recession hit us hard, the banks are killing us on our loans and line of credit, and health insurance costs go up by double-digit percentages every year.  I can't understand why every small business isn't pressing for the public option single payer solution.

            Liberal, Democrat, Atheist, Socialist, Communist, and Fascist. I'm the whole package.

            by docterry on Fri Feb 18, 2011 at 08:07:45 AM PST

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        •  Damned tough position to be in. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          If you don't survive as a business, you can't keep providing propane to anyone. But cutting people off, in February, depending on where you live, can be pretty drastic.

          I wonder if any local charities or churches have emergency heating programs?  Often, when small private efforts exist, the people who need them may not even know about them.

        •  State Laws provide a swiss cheese (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          safety net.

          What I found last time I skimmed through their summary listing suprised me.

          Some northern states have little or no protection (ND?!?).

          Others have provisions keyed to eligibility for subsidy, which may mean that budget cuts effectively modify state law protections if eligibility standards are stiffened to account for fewer funds.

          Many require as a condition of continued service that the use enter into an agreement to pay back the money.  The summary does not make clear what the terms of that provision are but the devil would be in the details.

          As you say, each state law may apply to only a portion of the utilities currently providing service in that state.

          What is clear is that the initial denial coming from some even here on dk that "state law would protect these people from having their heat shut off" is bunk.  

          If health care is not basic necessity, try living without it.

          by Into The Woods on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 05:49:55 PM PST

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      •  You don't have to disconnect someone (7+ / 0-)

        who buys propane, you just don't sell it to them.  Had it happen to us when I was a kid and it was hella cheaper then.

        "If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."- J. Danforth Quayle

        by Sychotic1 on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 08:37:22 AM PST

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    •  Tipped and recommended (9+ / 0-)

      This is indefensible, period, end of discussion.

      "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

      by Ivan on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 04:41:47 AM PST

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    •  What's your action plan? (8+ / 0-)

      I live in Philadelphia, which has as high a percentage below the poverty line as any major city in the US.  So this will be a very big deal.

      How do we organize to protest these cuts?  Any thoughts?

      Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

      by aravir on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 06:47:54 AM PST

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    •  Isn't the LIHEAP emergency fund untouched? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      If I am not mistaken, isn't the emergency reserve untouched by these cuts, allowing the government to provide funds in the next emergency oil spike?

      Still, kudos to you for asking the questions, and kudos to the WH for answering them, even if the answer isn't satisfactory.

      Keep the lines of communication open.

      •  Whether the emergency fund is untouched or (14+ / 0-)

        not, the emergency fund gets tapped when the regular funds are gone - something that happens within weeks of the program's start each year.

        Last year, I know there were funds left in the emergency fund, because HEAP sent out unsolicited add'l funds at the end of the year.  With the cuts they are talking about though, both funds combined will come up very short.

        As it is, with prices where they are, heap benefits only pay for a couple deliveries a year - people receiving heap still have hefty utility bills to cover each winter.

        I haven't had much time to look at the budget since it came out - only heard a few short reviews on NPR, but that was enough to have me disgusted - for the HEAP cuts AND, perhaps even more so, if possible, for the cutting in half (I think that's what they said) of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

        The CDBG funds an amazingly diverse set of programs - from Child Welfare to seniors to health clinics - that serve lower income households.  I can't imagine where these programs will make up those funds - especially with the cuts to Community Action Programs, that are connected to/provide those same programs.  It is a travesty, and I am still in shock at what is in this budget given these economic times (those would be hard cuts to live with in GOOD times!).

        "Don't Bet Against Us" - President Barack Obama

        by MRA NY on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 07:18:54 AM PST

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        •  Yup. Even before the 2008 price hike (11+ / 0-)

          The program never came close to meeting the actual need for heating oil and propane. In most states, if you weren't among the first applicants each year, you simply didn't get funds. We know plenty of people who have lived in one room with an electric space heater for the winter, covering doorways with blankets to keep that meager heat from escaping into other rooms.

          Cutting this program is inhuman.

          And Adam is absolutely right: it's also being penny wise and pound foolish, since the best way to reduce the need for funds is to prevent the loss of heat by weatherizing homes, including all that crappy, drafty rental stock out there.

          •  So It Is Our DEMOCRAT President Doing This. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            radical simplicity

            So, now where do we real democrats go?

            The image of freezing to death old folks and families is a horror we now have to live with?

            Not ME, I just won't go there.

            You can't always tell the truth because you don't always know the truth - but you can always be honest.

            by mattman on Tue Feb 15, 2011 at 11:16:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Good question mattman (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mattman, A Siegel

              The political system is so completely rigged against the general populace right now, I'm really not sure. My focus is on the local level - working in my community to help the affected folks and to build a ground-up movement.

              I am a bit too cynical to believe that the normal "contact your congresspeople" and "call the White House" tactics will have any meaning whatsoever. The pattern over the last few years has been all too consistent.

          •  Preventing loss of heat (0+ / 0-)

            isn't all it's cracked up to be. Seriously. It costs big time money upfront to do it, and at the most one might save 10%. A savings which would require many, many years to recoup. Don't believe all the hype of the people seling windows, siding etc. I own some of those apartments and I spent the money to do it. Big mistake.

            Seems to me that concentrating on cheap energy would be a better investment. The price of heating oil can fluxuate by as much as 50% in a season. No LIHEAP or conservation programs can keep up with that.

            •  Huh??? (0+ / 0-)

              Best 10%????

              No, that is simply not true.

              You are very, very wrong with "concentrating on cheap energy ..."

              The issue is to do what is cost effective, not to assert that there is nothing cost effective.

              Honestly, on straight money terms, replacing windows is typically far down the list in terms of monetary savings.

              Much better: caulking (sealing air leaks), insulation, good temperature management, etc ...  

              And, a huge difference can be made with relatively small initial costs ...

              Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

              by A Siegel on Wed Feb 16, 2011 at 04:11:08 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  As I wrote (0+ / 0-)

                I did all that. There is no "huge difference" and it is not cost effective given the upfront costs.

                Don't take my word for it though. Spend your money and try it yourself.

                •  Why don't you do your research .. (0+ / 0-)

                  If you found it not cost-effective, that is simply at odds with the research, the studies of real-world, etc ... Fine, you failed to do a cost-effective retrofit/improvements, this does not make it a rule set for all.  Your experience does not make a rule set.

                  In addition, 10% as a bad ROI?  Consider what Wall Street has returned for the average person.  And, does your 10% deal with (a) understanding the differing heat / cooling degree days over the years, (b) potential other items (people putting thermostat higher), (c) the fact that utility prices are, almost every in the United States, going up higher than inflation rates?

                  Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

                  by A Siegel on Wed Feb 16, 2011 at 06:05:59 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I Think You Need To Study (0+ / 0-)

                    the definition of ROI. I merely spoke of the energy savings my investment produced. And yes, I understand perfectly the concept of degree days and their use in computations, and obviously I used therms and gallons consumed, and not price. And I installed remote Honeywell thermostats so I could be sure of controlling the temperature settings.

                    Like I said, -spend your own money and then get back to me. The actual ROI is close to zero (unless it is being subsidized).


                    •  JEEZ ... (0+ / 0-)

                      Glad that you have the basis to analyze your ROI and that you have control of the information beyond what most people have.

                      Again, that yours did not payoff does not refute that payoffs are quite strong for attacking energy efficiency challenges in the home.

                      And, again, 10% is not a decent ROI?

                      And, well, I have "spent my own money" -- and worked with 10s of households to spend their money as an unpaid consultant who has worked the #s closely -- and read many of the analytical reports -- and ...

                      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

                      by A Siegel on Wed Feb 16, 2011 at 08:06:16 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  Let me try to put ths another way (0+ / 0-)

                    Breast cancer screening is not cost effective. This is because the vast majority of women will never develop the cancer, but will incur the cost of annual screenings forever. It is cheaper just to treat the ones that finally show symptoms. Now, of course, for my wife and I, screenings ARE cost effective. But they are not for the insurance companies or the Government.

                    In the same way, weatherizing homes is a net win for reducing overall energy consumption, but for the person footing the bill, it's a loser.

                    Both seem counter-intuitive at first, but they are not.

                    Question: How many years would you think a homeowner should wait before his upfront investment in weatherization is paid for? Or, in other words, at what point are homeowners likely to jump at a weatherization investment in terms of years?

                    •  Sigh ... (0+ / 0-)

                      Weatherization is not 'a loser' depending on many factors and approaches.

                      Some points:

                      1. Making 'perfect' is far more expensive and far longer ROI than 'improving.

                      2. There are non-fiscal issues that are, in fact, part of the ROI.  Windows are not, in most cases, cost-effective in terms of fiscal ROI (let's say less than a 10 year simple ROI) yet new/better quality windows can make it more comfortable to sit by the window in summer or winter.  What is the 'value' of that comfort improvement. We can also point to looks (for that self-satisfaction, not real estate value: next point).

                      3.  There is the direct energy savings, then there is house value. Writ large, on renewables, they state a 10-20 times annual value of energy produced in terms of improved real estate value. Energy efficiency is less clear but some realtor work suggests perhaps a multiplier of 5 (and perhaps 10) in terms of savings in added real estate value is legitimate.  And, things like 'new windows' have more impact on real estate value than on energy efficiency cost savings.

                      4.  There is, again, the value of inflation protection -- energy prices are, for most Americans, going up faster than inflation over time.  Energy efficiency investments/efforts reduces that impact.

                      5.  An aggregate 7 year payback -- 10% -- is a pretty strong ROI for anyone expecting to stay in the home a long time, especially considering the other value streams.  

                      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

                      by A Siegel on Wed Feb 16, 2011 at 08:13:27 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  ROI (0+ / 0-)

                        To compute ROI we must have an investment and a return (or savings in this case). And you put forth 7 years as a time frame. Good. We'll work with that:

                        Homeowner A currently uses aproximately 1000 therms of NG annually to heat his home. The price is currently around $1.30 per therm. Thus his annual heating cost is $1300.

                        If the homeowner were to enter into a weatherization project that would save 10% on his energy use and be paid for in 7 years the project would cost $910.

                        Now, kindly outline a project for me that only costs $910 and yet will save 10% on heating costs? And realistically, how likely is a homeowner to part with his $910 in 2011 when he won't realize any gain on it at all until 2019?! Biden will have finished his 1st term as President and todays elementry school kids will be off to college. Remember, in finance, money today has far greater value than future money.

                        This is real world stuff. Not "Inflation Projection" "Aggregate Payback" or "Realtor Studies". You obviously work in the field. You should know better.

                        •  Sigh (0+ / 0-)

                          1.  Of course, it depends where you start.

                          2.  Fine, you want a 2 year payback, 45%? That what it sounds like with the focus on time of payback highlighting that seven years will be (well) past the Obama presidency.  Sounds like the type of Wall Street investment that we'd all like to have.  

                          3.  Assuming 'start' is low and work down by homeowner, here is a very shorthand work program:

                          - $50 for caulking and such material to reduce leaks and for insulating hot water pipes where accessible.
                          - $50-$150 for programmable thermostat
                          - $500 for attic insulation in attic (cellulose)

                          Those measures, costing less than your targeted $910, would return far more than that 10% for most American homeowners.  That doesn't address overall utility / energy efficiency from compact flourescents to systematically buying higher energy efficiency when purchasing to ...

                          As an example ...

                          PS:  Dangerous to make any assumptions or assumptions about work or studies or otherwise of anyone ...

                          Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

                          by A Siegel on Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 08:30:17 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

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