Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rise in energy costs hits rural areas hardest

High fuel prices have hit rural areas hard. "For rural residents, high energy prices unleash a cascade of bad news that ripples through everyday life," Penn State geographer Amy Glasmeier writes for the Daily Yonder. Compared with urban areas, residents of rural areas are more dependent on oil for everything, from transportation to heating to making a living." Glasmeier reports that while the average American spends about 13 percent of the their income on food, rural residents are now spending around 20 percent of their income on food.

Rural housing is creating difficulties for many residents. "Over the last 20 years in rural areas, the rate of mobile-home ownership has more than doubled, to nearly 20 percent," adds Glasmeier. "Mobile homes are notoriously poorly insulated and energy inefficient. This, combined with the reliance on electrical heating in mobile homes, adds considerably to the burden of rural residents."

Many rural industries will also be negatively affected by rising energy prices. The production of fresh foods, timber and paper industries are all being hurt by the high costs of energy. Even in the public sector, the rise in energy costs is having an impact. "In many rural communities, the public sector (including municipal government, schools, and hospitals) provides the lion’s share of jobs," writes Glasmeier. "These organizations are key sources of local income, but at the same time, they rely on earned income for their revenue stream, especially schools and local government through the payment of taxes. Rising energy prices are having serious impacts on the public sector and there are few programs nimble enough to respond to their problems."(Read more)

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