BP and Shell’s ‘heinous’ profits renew calls for tougher windfall tax

‘Fuel subsidies must stop.’

A photo of a Shell gas station

The oil giants have been in the spotlight this week. Just days after BP announced it had secured £4bn in profits in the first three months of 2023, Shell announced record-breaking profits of £7.6bn in the same period.  

Between them, the British multinationals pocketed £11.7bn between January and March alone. Unions accused bosses of “rampant corporate profiteering.”

Benefiting from the war in Ukraine causing oil and gas prices to soar, while ordinary people struggle with spiralling energy costs and the cost-of-living crisis, calls are being ramped up once more for the government to toughen the energy profits levy, which was introduced last year.

Global Justice Now, campaigners on issues of global justice, referred to BP’s profits as “heinous,” and “another kick in the teeth to the millions of people who can’t afford to heat their homes.”

Meanwhile, Labour has said Rishi Sunak would have generated sufficient funds to freeze council tax bills in England if the windfall tax had not comprised of a tax break for gas and oil companies that invest in Britain.

“Shell reports £7.6billion profits for its first quarter yet the Tories refuse to bring in a proper windfall tax on oil and gas giants to freeze council tax this year, as Labour would. We’ll tackle the cost-of-living crisis, and put working people first,” said shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.

Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband said: “The Tory windfall tax is still full of get-out clauses with billions being bunged at oil and gas companies in special subsidies not available in any other part of the energy sector.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas shared her dismay, tweeting: “Another day, another climate criminal fossil fuel announces bumper profits – Shell took *£7.6bn* in 2023 Q1. Every time it begs the question – why on Earth is the government handling them billions more with deliberately designed windfall tax loophole. Fuel subsidies must stop.”

The backlash comes as a poll reveals that the majority of people in Britain want polluting gas and oil giants to be forced to use their record-breaking profits to fund the damage they are causing on the environment. The poll, published by Christian Aid, shows that 63 percent of those surveyed want Tory ministers to tax major energy firms and transfer wealth to poorer nations in the global South which are suffering the worst impacts of global warming.

Patrick Watt, Christian Aid’s chief executive said: “The people who have done the least to cause the climate crisis are facing the gravest climate shocks, and the damage that causes to harvests, homes, and human life.

“Record profits by fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP should be a wake-up call, and spur real accountability for the damage they are causing.

“That’s not just Christian Aid’s view, it’s the view of an overwhelming majority of the British public.

“The UK government should be ensuring that major polluters meet their moral responsibility to repair the damage they have caused to the climate.”

Meanwhile, a petition calling for a stronger windfall tax on oil and gas companies has attracted over 16,000 signatures.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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