This year the Greek government decided to equalize the price of central heating oil and diesel by drastically raising taxes. A direct consequence of this policy is rising air pollution, as households turn to wood as their heat source.
In spite of its reputation as a sun kissed nation, Greece suffers from cold winters. Northern Greece even has ski resorts. Badly insulated homes can make temperatures indoors colder than outside.
Due to the prohibitive cost of central heating oil, Greek households have turned to wood burning stoves and fireplaces as their primary form of heat. This has resulted in a stark rise in air pollution, notably in the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. According to Proto Thema smog has clouded the cities, with air pollution measuring three times more than normal.
When central heating oil went on sale in October the price was 48 percent higher than the previous year, due to increased taxes. Bloomberg reported taxes comprise 42 percent of the total cost. Equalizing the price of heating oil with diesel was due to government concerns that it was losing revenue from petrol smuggling. The direct result is Greek citizens face a bleak, cold winter.
Yahoo cites prices of 1.35 euros ($1.76) per litre, compared to 95 cents a year ago for central heating oil, though it can be higher in rural areas. Electricity costs are set to soar by 48 percent in January. Greek citizens struggling under austerity can no longer afford to heat their homes and increasingly turn to wood as the only viable option. Many schools are unable to heat the classrooms.
Many Greeks are returning to a peasant lifestyle, forced to chop wood. Even the wood is a target for thieves that sneak onto other peoples land and chop wood to sell for around € 100 per tonne. Illegal logging is on the increase.
Even at last year's prices more people were reliant on stoves as a heating source. Reuters quoted one fuel supplier saying: "People used to heat their houses but now they're just trying to warm their feet."
Environmentalists complained last year about air pollution - this year the situation is far worse, with the coldest months yet to come.