You Can be Sure of Shell

You’ll have heard the news. Shell has just announced record breaking annual profits of more than £32 BILLION. its highest profits in 115 years. The same week the company admitted it had paid just $134m in British windfall taxes during 2022.

It’s the same week that British Gas – who’s profits are also up by 700% – went to the courts for warrants to break into the homes of the poorest households in the country to force-fit prepayment meters, which leave their customers cold and unable to cook. Ian Conn, the CEO of British Gas owner Centrica saw his pay jump 44 per cent to £2.4m only two years ago, so no-one’s knocking his door in.

The obscenity of predatory capitalism is starker than ever this week.

Shell’s new CEO Wael Sawan, hailed the massive profits in a recent YouTube video. “The world [he said] needs its energy to be increasingly low carbon as we transition to a net-zero future. Shell’s strategy is the right one for this balanced energy transition …We’re doing our part, working to be the trusted partner of choice of our customers, government and investors.”

This is more lies. As the activist group Global Witness have exposed just 1.5% of Shell’s capital expenditure has been used to develop genuine renewables, such as wind and solar, with much of the rest of the division’s resources devoted to gas, which is a fossil fuel. This despite the companies claim in their most recent annual report that 12% of its capital expenditure was funneled into something called ‘Renewables and Energy Solutions in 2021’. The companies webpage, is festooned with pictures of wind turbines and solar panels, declares it is working to invest in “wind, solar, electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, and more”.


As Rishi Sunak hands out more North Sea licences for new oil and gas fields to the ‘Trusted Partner of Choice’ the climate catastrophe goes into a new freefall. As Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, and Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, have repeatedly said, these profits could be redirected to help struggling households pay their energy bills by way of a vastly increased windfall tax. But this doesn’t really cut it. I mean, they could but they won’t tax Big Oil a bit more – but they will carry on lying and we will carry on paying and the world will carry on burning.

When confronted about why they should not consider being charged under new laws of ecocide against humanity Shell’s head of the UK has said that it would be companies like Shell and BP that would at the forefront of the transition to a new clean economy. Under questioning from Labour’s Clive Lewis he said: “It is going to be companies like Shell and BP that have the project management, have the financial muscle, are prepared to provide the transparency, that are going to able to get this enormous transition accomplished.”

I suppose it takes the idea of Gaslighting into new territory, but the hubris and the level of denial is, like their profits, off the chart.

We’re being ripped off at the production end of the process and ripped off at the consumption end.

As I reported last month anti-poverty campaigners have called for an immediate ban on pre-payment meter (PPM) installations made under court warrants because of fears that energy suppliers are using them to disconnect the poorest, most indebted customers “by the back door”. The End Fuel Poverty Coalition said transferring households on to PPMs, which require regular top-ups and charge for energy at a higher rate, often prompted people in debt to “self-disconnect”.

Now, after an under cover report by The Times the reality of British Gas enforcement has been revealed. As Gaby Hinsliff writes (‘Energy bailiffs for the poorest, huge profits for the richest: this is Britain in 2023‘): “Elderly ladies make easy pickings. Single parents, the new recruit was told, are also a mainstay of the trade. So harden your heart to their pleading, even if they do have tiny children, because: “If every single mum that starts getting a bit teary you’re going to walk away from, you won’t be earning any bonus.” Just get yourself inside the house and fit that prepayment meter, even though it will cut off their gas if they can’t afford to keep their credit topped up, leaving them to shiver in the dark” she writes.

But as with Big Oil, Big Gas won’t be constrained by some small measure to halt the violence of breaking into peoples homes. Just as we need to immediately cease and dismantle the oil and gas industry we need to re-think heating and access to a habitable home as a human right not a source of profit. We need clean renewable energy companies to be in public hands (in whatever form that takes) immediately and we need both a mass passivhaus programme and and mass energy-descent plan. None of this will happen with British Gas running a predatory gang or climate criminals in charge of oil. These are not ‘Trusted Partners of Choice’ they are enemies of the people and planet.

In a sense there’s a mirror-effect going on here. Shell and Co are making the planet uninhabitable. But British Gas and Co are making society unliveable well in advance of that reality. The dark irony, and this really should be motivating apart from anything else, is that while the poorest are forced into destitution their carbon profile is marginal, like them. But those that are profiteering from this exploitation will be spewing out emissions by their most extravagant lifestyles. Cute isn’t it?

What has this got to do with Scotland? Well we can and must define a prospectus for and independent country that is committed to ceasing fossil fuel production as well as creating the conditions for decency in society around the provision of affordable and liveable homes. We must play our small part in the fight against climate catastrophe. The fight against omnicide (the destruction of everything) is the moral task not just of our generation but of our species. The faster we can cut our ties from this twin obscenity the better. The time for trusting these grotesque institutions or hand-wringing with paltry compromises is long overdue.

Feature image: Darren Cullen @darren_cullen | Image credit: Greenpeace



Comments (6)

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  1. Robbie says:

    Only thing that’s changed in “Britain” since the 50’s now it’s F**ck you Jack I,m BETTER than all right .Plus up yours baby. Hear Charlie’s getting TWO NEW thrones made for him and Cam , that’s the life eh .

  2. Antoine Bisset says:

    It’s not about tax. It’s about the prices we, UK businesses and householders, pay for gas and electricity. These prices have been manipulated by multinationals and by governments, including our own. In the past UK governments have felt it important to control the price of chocolate bars by means of Retail Price Maintenance. The government is not controlling the prices of electricity and gas. Yet no one died from lack of chocolate, whereas there will surely be a few deaths from lack of affordable heating.
    Keep in mind that the indefensible sanctions on Russia have hurt the UK citizens more than anyone else. (My simple sums suggest that the amount that has come directly out of UK citizens purses in the last year is something like £40bn.)
    The cost of getting gas from beneath the North Sea is the same now as it was three years ago, so between the well and the domestic boiler there have been enormous profits for some. Shell?

    1. Much of the North Sea Oil is exported

  3. Wul says:

    Shell’s head of the UK has said…: “It is going to be companies like Shell and BP that have the project management, have the financial muscle, are prepared to provide the transparency, that are going to able to get this enormous transition accomplished.”

    He added:

    “But first, we need to burn ALL the fu*king oil we can find! There’s just so much more money still to be made!”

  4. John Wood says:

    Thanks Mike. I am currently facing the reality of all this here in the highlands. I am a pensioner, living alone. I have a tiny coffee shop on the end of my house. It’s now closed, as is the village shop and post office across the road, leaving locals stranded. As soon as my tenants left at New Year, I started to receive insistent, largely automated, demands for money, even though I have no income or inclination to pay them. The Highland Council, having been happy to give the tenants a 100% discount on business rates, was quick to send me a demand for them, even though it is very difficult to see any benefit to our area at all. Some water company I’ve never heard of started sending me bills for supposed services I never requested or agreed to, that have never been delivered. It just continues a never-ending battle with the Scottish government who have set up a fake ‘retail market’ in non-domestic water to pour the money of those of us who cannot afford to pay into corporate pockets at public expense. And now we have British Gas. Who emailed me to say they supplied the property with electricity and were somehow entitled to charge me for that. Well, the electricity actually comes from the grid via SSEN (another bunch of criminals). I have never agreed any contract with British Gas. Their emails announcing they had set up an account for me could not be replied to. The only way to contact them apparently would be to accept this account and go through their chat system on the website. They have no contact address or phone number, or email address. Even their complaints system will not accept complaints. And apparently they no longer reply to letters, even if you can find an address to write to.. So then two invoices appeared in the post for over £200 ‘estimated charges’. They at least had a return address on them so I used that to tell British Gas I refused them and did not consent to being their customer. I have had one response, again from an unmonitored no reply email address, saying they had received my complaint but unless I contacted them within a short deadline (how exactly?) it would be dismissed.
    And so on … but my point here is that the Scottish Government, and all our Scottish regulators are somehow bought and sold for the same oligarch gold as the Westminster parties. Complaining gets you absolutely nowhere, because the oligarchs, and the corporations they seems to now own all the shares in, are completely above the law and governments, even ours, simply do their bidding without question. We urgently need politicians and public servants who will stand up for us against this tidal wave of organised crime before it drowns us.

    This is a very serious situation. It means that even if we achieve nominal independence from Westminster, the same oligarchs and corporations are likely to remain in totalitarian control and will be able to subject us all to endless bullying, extortion, and threats while destroying the ecosystems our existence depends on. Who is pulling the strings? They are there smirking in pain site, while denying everything. They are above the law, even international law, and nobody it seems, not even governments, can challenge them.

    So here is my proposal: stop paying for services neither requested, nor agreed to, nor delivered. Insist on negotiating prices. A contract has to be agreed between two parties. A ‘deemed contract’ is simply extortion. Stop voting for any candidate – of any party or none – who will not commit to standing up for planet and people against this criminality. Every time. And be held to it. And if no candidate will make that commitment, spoil your ballot paper with “NONE”. If there are enough spoiled ballots to affect the outcome, demand a fresh election. WE cannot let ourselves be bounced endlessly between ‘least worst’ parties or candidates. Who really wants either Starmer or Sunak in charge?

    And yes of course, we must insist that any candidates and politicians, regulators and public servants in future acknowledge the Claim of Right. I certainly won’t vote for anyone who won’t commit to that – however impressive their credentials otherwise.

    But my point really is, this crisis is now real, and it is happening now, and we simply have to do something about it, something practical and non-violent. Because unless we face up to it, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. And it is likely to get very nasty, and very violent, very quickly. First they came for the poor, the refugees, the elderly and sick, but don’t think you’ll be somehow escaping it. Elon Musk is going to find he cannot escape to Mars, Mark Zuckerberg will find nowhere to hide in his (dystopian) ‘metaverse’.

    1. Thanks John, I agree completely, you are right we need fully independent public utilities and we need to do this work now

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