Fuel and transport poverty: comparisons and contrasts

transport poverty

A new article on transport poverty and fuel poverty from the EUED Demand Centre looks at the differences and similarities between the two areas of study and the implications for policy.

From analogy to comparison

Entitled “Transport poverty and fuel poverty in the UK: From analogy to comparison” , the paper aims to take stock of how transport poverty has emerged as a field, and has been partly defined in terms of the more established field of fuel poverty. In many ways this comparison has been useful but it has also led to some misunderstandings, as transport poverty is generally a much more complex area. The paper also notes that the two topics are becoming more and more intertwined, with households needing to decide what they spend their money on in a tight economy and rapidly changing energy market.

The method

Written by Giulio Mattioli, Karen Lucas and Greg Marsden and appearing in the journal of Transport Policy, the paper uses four headings to tackle the comparison between the two fields. These are:

  • Negative consequences of lack of warmth and lack of access – i.e. what are the symptoms of the two forms of poverty.
  • Drivers of fuel and transport poverty – what are the causes leading to people being in both situations
  • Definition and measurement – what are the different definitions and metrics for identifying both subjects
  • Policy interventions – what are government bodies doing to address the situation and how effective are they.

Findings

One conclusion of the work is that while fuel poverty is often defined by a single metric – namely ‘lack of warmth’ in the home – transport poverty can be defined in numerous ways including by geographic, demographic and economic factors, so requires a more multi-faceted approach than fuel poverty to define it.

The researchers also review evidence suggesting that some people live in fuel and transport poverty simultaneously, with the two feeding off each other and thus affecting results of research into both areas. The decisions people make about what to spend on energy and what to spend on transport are interlinked, and there should be an awareness of this in both research and policy approaches. The researchers therefore argue that the interactions and overlaps between fuel and transport poverty constitute a promising area for future energy-demand research.

One aspect of UK government efforts to alleviate these forms of poverty is strikingly similar in the fuel and transport areas. Older people receive free public transport and winter fuel payments regardless of any other indicators of their circumstances e.g. wealth, health, location. The researchers believe that there are many non-elderly people in much greater need of support and that these policies need to be looked at.

Overall the article is an important piece of the puzzle in gaining a deeper understanding of transport poverty, how it relates to fuel poverty, and how both can be addressed by policy makers with a view to improving living standards whilst simultaneously addressing CO2 reduction challenges.

Read the full article on the Transport Policy website (Open Access)

The article is part of a forthcoming Special Issue on “Household transport costs, economic stress and vulnerability”, guest-edited by DEMAND researchers (see full list of articles)

More on the DEMAND Centre

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