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Fuel protests gripping more than 90 countries

Fuel protests gripping more than 90 countries

Protesters in Ecuador hit the streets over the rise in cost of livingIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Protesters in Ecuador hit the streets over the rise in the cost of living

High costs of living are driving people to protest in the streets against crippling prices. The BBC has mapped all reported demonstrations over fuel since January 2021, revealing a huge increase in protests this year.

Fuel costs affect many aspects of daily life – personal travel, transportation of goods, energy for electricity and heating.

Around the world demonstrators have called for change. They’ve demanded that petrol be made more affordable or available at all.

They’ve sat in peaceful protests and they’ve attacked governments.

Some have paid an even higher price.

Fights over fuel

16-year-old Khadija Bah was standing on her family’s front porch when she was shot.

For days, Khadija had been watching growing crowds of demonstrators rally, gathering only metres from her house on the east side of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.

But on 10 August, the protests turned violent. As armed police clashed with protesters, a stray bullet hit Khadjia. She sank to the ground and died almost immediately.

Her mother, Maria Sesay, is still struggling to come to terms with the death of her daughter. A student at the local secondary school, Khadija’s dream was one day to become a nurse.

Khadija's parents, Maria (L) and Abdul (R)
Image caption,

Khadija’s parents, Maria (L) and Abdul (R)

“I’m so sad,” her mother says. “Up until now, I have struggled so hard to raise my daughter. But now she is dead. I’m in so much pain.”

Violence like this has not been witnessed in this small west African nation for years. This time, it was sparked by record-breaking fuel prices.

In the month of August, violent clashes in the capital killed 25 people, including five police officers.

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Largest UK Supermarket Warns “Worst Has Yet To Come” Amid Food Inflation Crisis

Largest UK Supermarket Warns “Worst Has Yet To Come” Amid Food Inflation Crisis

Britain’s largest supermarket chain warned “the worst is yet to come” on food inflation as the cost-of-living crisis pulverizes the working poor. 

John Allan, chairman of Tesco Plc, told the BBC’s Sunday Morning Live that low-income households have difficulty choosing between food and heat this winter. Budgets are tight, triggering a ‘winter of discontent’ if widespread inflation doesn’t diminish.

In some ways, the worst is still to come – because although food price inflation in Tesco last quarter was only 1%, we are impacted by rising energy prices. Our suppliers are impacted by rising energy prices. We’re doing all we can to offset it … but that’s the sort of number we’re talking about. Of course, 5%,” Tesco’s Allan said.

He said food and energy inflation would change consumer spending patterns, buying fewer luxury goods and big-ticket items and going out less to eat. Food inflation comes as households experience one of the most significant jumps in annual energy costs in years.

“It troubles us, and I’m sure troubles many people, that people may have to struggle to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families,” he said. “And that’s clearly not a situation that any of us should tolerate.”

For some context for our international readers, Tesco controls about 28% of the UK grocery market. So when Allan speaks about the worst of the food inflation has yet to come — it’s very concerning that food price hikes might continue well through spring. It’s still unknown the social ramifications of high inflation.

Food prices globally are at decade highs, likely to hit new records by spring.

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Entice and Orbit become latest energy firms to go bust

Entice and Orbit become latest energy firms to go bust

Smart meterIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES

Two more energy suppliers have gone bust amid the surge in gas prices, the regulator Ofgem has said.

Entice Energy and Orbit Energy, which have about 5,400 and 65,000 customers respectively, ceased trading on Wednesday.

The two firms are the latest companies to go under as higher wholesale gas prices have made price promises by suppliers to customers undeliverable.

Ofgem said new suppliers would be found for the two companies’ customers.

Households have been advised to wait until a new supplier is appointed before thinking about switching company.

Neil Lawrence, director of retail at Ofgem, said:  ”I want to reassure affected customers that they do not need to worry:  under our safety net we’ll make sure your energy supplies continue. ”

Orbit said energy supplies to its customers were “secure” and said any credit balances would be honoured.

The collapse of Orbit and Entice comes after Bulb, the UK’s seventh largest energy supplier, was handed about £1,000 per customer from the UK government to enable it to continue supplying energy.

Bulb, which has 1.7 million customers, is the largest company to date to face difficulties in recent months and was put into special administration, which will allow it keep trading for the moment with a £1.7bn loan.

It will be run by an administrator until a buyer can be found or until its customers have moved.

Bulb’s size is the reason it has been kept afloat by the government, rather than its customers being transferred to other suppliers, as has happened with other failing energy providers.

Energy firms graphic

Since the beginning of September, a total of 24 energy suppliers have now failed following a spike in gas prices.

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Natural gas: SSE Airtricity to increase prices by 21.8%

Natural gas: SSE Airtricity to increase prices by 21.8%

A gas hobIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS

SSE Airtricity will increase its natural gas prices for households and businesses by 21.8% from October.

The company says the change will add £112 on to the typical average household bill.

SSE Airtricity has 178,000 customers in Northern Ireland.

Tariffs are scrutinised and approved by the utility regulator, who had previously warned that gas price increases were to be expected this winter.

SSE says it is revising its prices to reflect the sustained increases in external costs outside of its control.

These including rising costs in acquiring natural gas on global wholesale energy markets.

These costs affect all suppliers in the market as seen in similar announcements already this year.

‘The perfect storm’

The Fuel Poverty Coalition has warned unprecedented increases in energy costs could lead to the “perfect storm” this winter coming at the same time as the furlough scheme and the uplift to Universal Credit come to an end.

Chair Pat Austin said one in five families in Northern Ireland are already in fuel poverty and that the Executive needs to intervene to stop the problem from getting much worse.

“We need a crisis intervention at the moment, we need government and the suppliers to get behind this – whether that is a social tariff for low-income households or being able to top households up, that needs to happen sooner rather than later.”

‘Not taken lightly’

Andrew Greer, SSE Airtricity general manager (NI), said the decision had not been taken lightly.

“Almost 90% of a customer’s gas tariff is accounted for through transmission, distribution and commodity costs.

“Over the last year, commodity costs have risen sharply with the cost of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market more than doubling since last summer.

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Electric cars: What will happen to all the dead batteries?

Electric cars: What will happen to all the dead batteries?

A worker with car batteries at a factory for Xinwangda Electric Vehicle Battery Co. Ltd, which makes lithium batteries for electric carsGETTY IMAGES
The world will have to work out what to do with millions of disused car batteries

“The rate at which we’re growing the industry is absolutely scary,” says Paul Anderson from University of Birmingham.

He’s talking about the market for electric cars in Europe.

By 2030, the EU hopes that there will be 30 million electric cars on European roads.

“It’s something that’s never really been done before at that rate of growth for a completely new product,” says Dr Anderson, who is also the co-director of the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials.

While electric vehicles (EVs) may not emit any carbon dioxide during their working lives, he’s concerned about what happens when they run out of road – in particular what happens to the batteries.

“In 10 to 15 years when there are large numbers coming to the end of their life, it’s going to be very important that we have a recycling industry,” he points out.

While most EV components are much the same as those of conventional cars, the big difference is the battery. While traditional lead-acid batteries are widely recycled, the same can’t be said for the lithium-ion versions used in electric cars.

EV batteries are larger and heavier than those in regular cars and are made up of several hundred individual lithium-ion cells, all of which need dismantling. They contain hazardous materials, and have an inconvenient tendency to explode if disassembled incorrectly.

“Currently, globally, it’s very hard to get detailed figures for what percentage of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, but the value everyone quotes is about 5%,” says Dr Anderson. “In some parts of the world it’s considerably less.”

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