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Fossil fuel protest

Climate activists with Stop the Money Pipeline held a rally in midtown Manhattan on March 3, 2021, protesting companies that have profiting off the climate crisis. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Obscene': BP Profits Hit 8-Year High Amid Climate Emergency

"Oil company bosses are being allowed to make obscene profits from climate breakdown and the gas price crisis on the back of widespread devastation for people around the world," said one campaigner.

Julia Conley

Fueled by rising oil and gas prices that have left millions struggling to afford energy bills, British fossil fuel giant BP reported its highest yearly profits in nearly a decade on Tuesday while rejecting calls for a tax on its financial windfall.

The company raked in $12.8 billion in profits in 2021—more than its annual income for the past eight years. The announcement comes a week after BP's rival Shell reported $19.3 billion in profits last year.

"BP and Shell are raking in billions from the gas price crisis while enjoying one of the most favorable tax regimes in the world for offshore drillers."

BP CEO Bernard Looney said Tuesday the company is "delivering distributions to shareholders with $4.15 billion of buybacks announced," and the company intends to deliver $1.5 billion more in share buybacks.

"We see these wealthy firms extracting billions in profit from one of our most basic needs," said Ryan Morrison, a just transition campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland. "BP and other fossil fuel bosses are getting even richer as the price of energy pushes millions more homes into fuel poverty and forces people to choose between heating and eating."

Oil and gas prices have skyrocketed in recent months due to higher demand following economic shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic, with the crisis in Ukraine being blamed for pushing them even higher.

In the U.K., an estimated 22 million households are expected to see their energy costs rise after the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) announced last week a 54% increase to its price cap from 2021.

Household energy bills in the U.K. could rise by nearly $1,000 per year, according to CNBC.

BP's announcement intensified calls for a windfall tax for large fossil fuel companies in the U.K., which, Greenpeace head of climate Kate Blogojevich noted, are "pushing our world closer to catastrophic climate change" while collecting record profits.

"These profits are a slap in the face to the millions of people dreading their next energy bill," Blagojevich said. "BP and Shell are raking in billions from the gas price crisis while enjoying one of the most favorable tax regimes in the world for offshore drillers."

Caroline Lucas, a member of British Parliament representing the Green Party, called BP's profits "obscene" in light of the energy and cost-of-living crisis in Britain.

Despite reports that more than one million additional U.K. households could struggle to afford adequate heat due to rising prices, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak last week rejected calls for a windfall tax for oil and gas profits derived from drilling in the North Sea, where BP and Shell have drilled for decades.

Looney also dismissed demands for a windfall tax, which the Labour Party put forward earlier this month, saying it could save most households more than $200 per year on energy costs.

"We need more gas, not less gas, and therefore we need to encourage investment into the North Sea and not discourage it. That's number one," Looney told CNBC Tuesday. "And the second thing is around the transition, we need to accelerate the transition."

Like other Big Oil companies, BP has recently released plans to purportedly reduce emissions and shift toward renewable energy sources as global experts at the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have warned that companies must stop burning fossil fuels to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis and to limit global heating to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

But as Common Dreams reported last week, climate pledges released by companies including BP, Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil are rife with loopholes which "ultimately serve little more than to greenwash the fossil fuel industry's image and deceive customers about the climate risks inherent in continued use of its products," according to the Center for Climate Integrity.

"Oil company bosses are being allowed to make obscene profits from climate breakdown and the gas price crisis on the back of widespread devastation for people around the world," said Morrison Tuesday.

The Stop Cambo campaign, which successfully pressured Shell to cancel plans to develop the Cambo oil field in the North Sea late last year, tweeted that the solution to the energy crisis as well as the climate catastrophe is "cheap, green energy."

"Instead of allowing these companies to continue causing social and environmental devastation for their own pocket, we need to overhaul our energy system to end our dependence on oil and gas," said Morrison.

"It's time to rapidly scale up investment in renewables and energy efficiency while winding down fossil fuel production to create affordable renewable energy for everyone," he added. "A just transition will not be realized while profit-obsessed fossil fuel companies call the shots."

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