Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fairbanks, City of Whiners

Interesting.  Yesterday, the News Minus ran a headline on its online site about Fairbanks having the highest utility costs in the nation, and yet, today, I couldn't find it. Turns out the headline morphed overnight into "Survey: Fairbanks utility costs keep rising."

"Fairbanks paid 143 percent more than the typical U.S. household for its utility costs in the third quarter of 2012, according to a national survey of 304 urban areas in the country. Alaska's second-largest city had the distinction of paying the highest utility costs last year, with prices about 112 percent above average."

And there was much wailing about how hard we have it here.

Unfortunately, the News Minus didn't include a link to the the source of the data for the story, the Council for Community and Economic Research.

Has anyone noticed that the News Minus has been harping on this issue repeatedly this year? And yet, reality is a bit more complicated than that.

Yep, we don't have the cheap electricity they do in Anchorage.  Neither does most of the rest of the state.  And guess what?  Most rural areas pay far far more than we do for fuel oil and electricity in places where they use fuel oil to heat homes and diesel to generate electricity.  Of those communities, we have it really really good.  Want to feel the pinch of energy prices? Live in a place where they have to fly in the stuff that heats people's homes and feeds the electric plant where there aren't any damned trees to burn as firewood.

But the Council for Community and Economic Research doesn't survey those places... however, the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension does, getting a village or two occasionally, and most regional centers pretty often.  The most recent couple of data sets don't have all costs broken out, but one thing stands out: this is usually the cheapest place to feed a family of four of ANYWHERE in Alaska.

As I sat in front of the woodstove this morning coaxing a new fire from last night's embers, I remembered how lucky we are to have an adjunct heating source around here that just requires a chainsaw, some gas, and a bit of hard work to take the edge off the cold for those who have the ability to do so.

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