More than three-quarters of people want a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies, according to a national survey published today.
The poll, by YouGov for Friends of the Earth, found that 76% supported the use of oil and gas company profits to help families struggling with energy bills.
Friends of the Earth said money from a windfall tax should be used as a one-off payment to people most affected by rising oil and gas prices.
In the long run, it could also help install insulation in Britain’s energy-inefficient housing, reducing future bills, the organisation said.
It said the tax would apply to all North Sea oil and gas producers, which include BP and Shell.
BP reported a $12.8 billion profit for 2021, an eight-year high, while Shell had annual profits of $19.3 billion.
Gas prices for a typical UK family will go up £693 a year in April, a 54% increase.
Jamie Peters, director of campaigns for Friends of the Earth, said:
“People rightly worried about how they are going to afford energy bills have looked at these excessive profits from the oil and gas giants in disbelief.
“When the choice for thousands across the nation is between eating or heating, we have to question how this is acceptable.
“Channelling some of those obscene profits into making energy bills more affordable would make a world of difference to people’s lives. It’s no wonder the public are demanding a windfall tax to fund much needed protection for those most at risk of soaring bills.
“The increases in fuel bills are caused by a global spike in gas prices, which is being passed on to households because of our reliance on gas.
“We need to stop exploiting the earth’s resources and get off expensive, damaging gas once and for all by investing in a massive programme of renewable energy and home insulation.”
Senior oil and gas executives have promised to spend more on low-carbon alternatives to oil and gas, including windfarms, hydrogen and electric vehicle charging points.
But the International Energy Agency (IEA) said investment in clean energy by oil and gas companies was only about 1% of capital expenditure in 2020.
Connor Schwartz, climate lead at Friends of the Earth, told the Guardian last week:
“It’s clear that oil and gas companies don’t intend to divert their eye-wateringly excessive profits to fund the green transition we need.
“They have no profit-based reason to do this, because drilling for oil and gas is more lucrative than investing in cheap, green energy.
“This is partly due to government handouts in the form of subsidies and tax breaks, which reward huge multinationals for exacerbating climate breakdown instead of penalising them.”
At the weekend, a letter to Boris Johnson by about 30 MP, many from the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, said a lifting the moratorium on fracking would help the energy price crisis.
The letter, reported by the Telegraph, said shale gas fracking would “allow us to combat the cost of living crisis, level up, create jobs, opportunity and a renewed sense of community in the north, improve our energy security, reduce our reliance on imported gas, stabilise energy prices and achieve net zero without increasing the cost of living for already hard-pressed working families.”
The energy commentator, Richard Black, reported that in the past three months for which data is available (September-November 2021), the UK exported 31,975 GWh of gas – about double the amount in 2020 and just under double the figures from 2019 and 2018.
He said this was “utterly normal corporate behaviour and completely to be expected”. The gas, he said, belonged to the company that extracted it, not to the UK:
“Fracking wouldn’t change this. Nor would increasing North Sea production, were that even feasible. Unless you want to argue for state ownership of the gas produced, it will always get sold where the profit margin is biggest and energy security wil always depend on UK companies (not the government) paying the market price”.
- The YouGov survey for Friends of the Earth was carried out online on 10-11 February 2022. The total sample size was 1,771 adults.