Lead prices raise the roofs off British churches

iStockPhoto People are literally stealing the roofs off of churches in Britain, the New York Times reports today. Some call it “the most concerted assault on churches since the Reformation.” But it’s not religious zealotry that’s driving the vandals, it’s simple economics. Rising resource demand from China and India coupled with supply disruptions from Australia ...

595583_080408_english_church2.jpg
595583_080408_english_church2.jpg

iStockPhoto

People are literally stealing the roofs off of churches in Britain, the New York Times reports today. Some call it "the most concerted assault on churches since the Reformation." But it's not religious zealotry that's driving the vandals, it's simple economics.

Rising resource demand from China and India coupled with supply disruptions from Australia (the holy trinity of skyrocketing prices) have caused lead prices to jump sevenfold in the past six years. Before 2005, instances of roof theft were few and far between. But last year, one church insurance company reported $18 million in claims, mostly from cases of disappearing lead.  Historical preservation laws mandate the use of original building materials, hence the metal installation and replacement in the event of theft. John Deave, a retired churchwarden, is feeling the pressure:

iStockPhoto

People are literally stealing the roofs off of churches in Britain, the New York Times reports today. Some call it “the most concerted assault on churches since the Reformation.” But it’s not religious zealotry that’s driving the vandals, it’s simple economics.

Rising resource demand from China and India coupled with supply disruptions from Australia (the holy trinity of skyrocketing prices) have caused lead prices to jump sevenfold in the past six years. Before 2005, instances of roof theft were few and far between. But last year, one church insurance company reported $18 million in claims, mostly from cases of disappearing lead.  Historical preservation laws mandate the use of original building materials, hence the metal installation and replacement in the event of theft. John Deave, a retired churchwarden, is feeling the pressure:

Whenever I get an early morning phone call these days, I think, ‘Oh no, they’ve taken the roof again.'”

Institutions are mulling tough love tactics to prevent further vandalism including barbed wire, roof lights, and slippery drain pipe paint, but mere fences can’t stop the forces of supply and demand. This highlights a broader trend in which the West feels a pinch from inflation and commodity price hikes in the developing world. The free ride is ending, folks.

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