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Why all the fuss about Big Oil?


It wasn’t long ago that climate activists were urging the world to “dump shares in oil companies”, says Ross Clark in The Spectator. This was not just to punish them for climate change, but, according to these eco-sages, because oil companies’ fortunes were on a downward trajectory as the world turned green. “That’s not how it looked in BP’s boardroom” this week, as the firm announced profits of £7.1bn in the third quarter, setting it on the path to one of its most profitable years ever.

Predictably, this has triggered the usual “bleating” that BP and others are making too much money. Joe Biden has accused oil companies of “war profiteering”, and there have been renewed calls for more aggressive windfall taxes – “on top of the one imposed by the government earlier this year”. But BP is already on course to pay nearly £700m in windfall taxes as a result of these latest figures. And it was thanks to government-imposed lockdowns that the firm had to swallow a stonking $22bn loss in 2020. That is the reality of life as an oil company: “your fortunes will rise or crash along with oil prices”, which depend as much as anything on the whims of political leaders. Just three years ago, “a third of MPs demanded that their pension fund divested from oil”. Today, many of those same MPs are demanding a hefty cut of those oil profits to bail out the public finances. How’s that for profiteering?