Vigils and rage: Brits react to hike in energy prices amid sky high corporate profits

BP signs at a gas station at night
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Average households in Britain will face up to a 40% increase in already excessive energy prices in April, according to the Guardian. This is despite the fact that wholesale energy prices are falling. At the same time, fossil fuels giants and energy suppliers such as BP are announcing obscene profits.

There’s obviously something deeply wrong with this picture, as people have been pointing out.

Rinsing the people

BP is the latest fossil fuel giant to reveal its 2022 haul. The company’s profits were over double those of 2021, at a record £23bn. The announcement followed one from Shell on 2 February. That energy giant made more profit in 2022 than it has done in any other year of its 115-year history, raking in a staggering £32.2bn.

Electricity and gas prices in the UK increased by 65.4% and 128.9%, respectively, over the course of 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics. With this in mind, people have been enraged by the profiteering:

Worse still, chancellor Jeremy Hunt appears set on raising the energy price guarantee (EPG) in April. The EPG limits the amount that suppliers can charge consumers. With the EPG likely going up and the government’s energy bills support scheme ending, the Guardian reported that, come Spring:

the effective rise [in energy costs] for all but those on the lowest incomes will be about 40%.

As the Resolution Foundation has detailed, wholesale gas prices have fallen from their peak in August 2022. That could mean – depending on what happens in the ‘extremely volatile’ energy markets – that energy prices are lower than previously feared. Even so, it explained that energy bills are on course to be 20% higher in 2023-4 than they were 2022-3.

In the wake of all this, there have been fresh calls for a meaningful tax on fossil fuel companies, including through a stronger tax on windfall profits and a higher permanent tax:

Killing the planet

On the same day it revealed its exorbitant profits, BP also announced a reduction in its ambitions to limit its impact on the climate. According to the BBC, the company is dropping its target for emissions cuts from 35-40% to 20-30% by the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, another giant in the energy world – Equinor – is due to reveal its 2022 profits on 8 February. Equinor, which counts the Norwegian government as its biggest shareholder, is the UK’s largest supplier of gas and plans to develop the Rosebank oil field, off the coast of Shetland.

According to the clean-energy-focused organisation Uplift, burning Rosebank’s oil and gas would create a vast amount of carbon emissions. They would be equal to the emissions of the world’s 28 lowest-income countries combined.

Uplift also says that a loophole in the current windfall tax, which gives tax relief for new investment in fossil fuels, means that companies behind the Rosebank project will receive £500m in tax breaks.

In protest of the proposed development, and Equinor’s role in the cost of living crisis, campaigners are holding a candle-lit vigil on the evening of 7 February outside the Norwegian Embassy. Further protests will take place on 8 February at the company’s offices in London and Aberdeen.

The Stop Rosebank campaign’s Lauren MacDonald said:

Equinor is literally making billions while vulnerable people in the UK, struggling with soaring energy costs, are being forced into debt or worse, having their energy supply cut off in winter.

MacDonald also spoke out about BP’s profits on Twitter:

The campaigner described the situation, whereby corporations rake in excessive profits at the expense of people and the planet, as “utterly disgraceful”. That sums up the situation perfectly.

Featured image via Michael Coghlan / Wikimedia, cropped to 770×403, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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  • Show Comments
    1. How many of the people so angry about corporate profits would even consider joining or voting for a truly socialist political party? The UK has a mainly capitalist economic system in which energy corporations are acting as they ought to: maximising profits while externalising costs. This is a deeply political problem, not just a temporary crisis.

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