This is a sad picture of Athens, Greece, on Dec 26 suffocating from Smog (confirmed by Ministry of Environment press release). The Troika (EU, IMF, ECB) has inflicted a tax increase in heating oil by 35%+ to collect more taxes and create a “fake” benchmark improvement in the external balance account. Heating Oil consumption is down by 80%. People have turned to woodstoves. Tax collection is at -75% of forecasted. Due to the burning of wood, Athens is frequently suffocating from smog. There is a public outcry. Yet noone touches upon the stupidity of the Troikan Heating Tax. Please share…

Greeks rather die from fireplace smog 

than pay exorbitant heating oil prices

Everybody is warning us. The Environment Ministry, the National Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, the Greek Doctors’ Association. They all urge us to immediately stop burning wood in the fireplaces and stoves and turn on the heating oil or natural gas system to comfortably pass through the cold winter days.
They tell us of unhealthy fumes, of cancer causing particles, of respiratory and heart problems and allergies triggered by burning wood and pellets of unknown origin and composition. They even speak of dangers for our neurological and reproductive systems.
The appeal to parents of babies and young children and caretakers of chronic ill. “Stop burning wood” read the slogan.
They caution on the inscreased pollution measurements especially in Athens but also in other big cities like Thessaloniki, Larissa… They speak of an almost toxic smog.
They admonish us about the health risks we are going to face if we insist in not paying the exorbitant heating oil and natural gas prices. 2,000 liters of heating oil at a price of a total 3,200 euro, paid in advance. Ha!
They speak of horrible, tricky and invisible tiny bits of dangerous material swinging inside our homes or outside in the atmosphere.
But all those caring institutions do not advice us where we all find the money to pay the heating bills, that went up by 50% when compared to those of last year.
So we sit in front of the fire place or the stove and caugh. Evening in, evening out. We caugh and wonder whether the reason for our caughing is a winter virus infection, a simple cold or the invisible leathal particles.
We sit there with our music producing lungs. It’s not the sound of a happily pouring cat or the sound of the development and growth coming in our county. It’s the wheezing of our affected lungs whether due to weather and viruses or due to air polllution.
We sit right in front of the fire place and caugh our lungs out. Like the old Dickens characters who caugh everytime they actually attempt to laugh.
 But who cares? At least, we will die …warmed up.  There is this damned possibility that we will have neither a home, nor a fire place next year.
Property owners will have to pay to the state six different taxes for one single property until April 2013.
So, who cares about death by smog?
By the way: All these caring institutions do not say a single word on air pollution and neccessity of anti-pollution measures when the summer temperatures having us live and hardly breath inside a suffocating smog cloche.


Freezing and dying in Greece as people 

cannot afford heating oil & natural gas

The tragedy in Kavala where three children lost their lives in a house fire reached the other side of the big river, the Atlantic Ocean. Washington Post published an article on the issue, stressing the most striking aspect of the story: that these children had not be dead today, if the heating oil prices weren’t that high. The weekend at the grandparents’ home plunged the family of ten children and a whole village in mourning when the fire in the wooden stove got out of control. The house had central heating oil system, but it was turned off this winter due to heating oil prices at 1.40-1.50 euro per liter.
Three children, aged 5, 7 and 15, found a horrible death when a fire caused by a wooden stove burned down a home in Mesoropi village, near the city of Kavala in Northern Greece, on Saturday. Together with their parents the children were visiting the home of their grandparents. The blaze stared in the stove and quickly engulfed the wooden house. The roof collapsed on two of the youngest victims while the older brother died of smoke inhalation where he entered the house in an attempt to rescue them.
Washington Post: In tragedy related to Greece’s financial crisis, 3 young brothers dead in house fire
In a tragedy related to Greece’s financial crisis, three children died in a northern village Saturday when a fire burned down the home of their grandparents, who were using a wooden stove because heating oil prices have soared, officials and residents said.
“They had oil heating. They put on a stove this year, as many other villagers did, because of the crisis. Things are very tight,” said Vangelis Bozoudis, a resident of Mesoropi.
The price of heating oil has soared this year in Greece. Until last spring, heating oil was sold at a much lower price than diesel fuel, but, because a lot of heating oil was used illegally as diesel fuel to circumvent the higher price, the government decided to harmonize the prices.
As a result, the cost of heating oil has increased almost 40 percent, leaving many Greek families — whose incomes have already taken a big hit from years of recession, fiscal austerity and soaring unemployment — no option but to switch to cheaper forms of heating.
Bozoudis and other villagers of Mesoropi, contacted by phone, said that this incident would not have happened if the family still used heating oil and wondered how many more accidents like that would take place across the country. (full article Washington Post)
It’s not only the heating oil prices that leave Greeks exposed to a freezing winter life. The tax on natural gas for heating was increased last year too, reaching levels that Greeks can hardly afford this year.
In a neighborhood building with autonomus natural gas system, three families are heating with electric stoves as they cannot afford to pay bills of 100-150 euro per winter month for heating alone. Families with babies, young children or grandparents of over 85 years old.
A friend was telling me that the management of a multi-building where he lives in downtown Athens will not operate the central natural gas system because apartment owners and tenants do not pay even 10 euro for building maintenance costs during the summer months.
Another friend was telling me, that for a second winter she will use the air-conditioner to heat the apartment, because no heating oil was bought by the building management.
More or less the same is the situation among my other friends and neighbors in my (former) middle-class social circle. Wages and pensions cuts and unemployment have indeed deteriorated our former living standards so sharply within one year, that one can hardly imagine, if one does not live here.
Many who sought alternative solutions with air-conditioners or electric heaters do not dare to calculate how much their electricity bill will be charged with, if they will operate them enough to ‘melt’ their frozen feet and hands.
Lucky are the ones, who have a fire place and can heat at least one room for several hours.
PS can you imagine natural gas and heating oil could be free of charge next winter and we would have to sell all electric heaters we bought this year?