You’re probably busy just trying to make a living, so you may not have noticed that the world’s biggest oil and gas companies are making a killing.
More than ever.
There’s a lot of competition for the dubious honour of most shameless conduct in public. But fossil fuel companies making obscene profits while asking our governments for more and more money (your money) has to be near the top of the list.
That’s exactly what’s happening. Shell just posted record profits of US$40 billion, doubling last year’s record profits. Shell owns the largest share of the LNG Canada liquefied natural gas project underway in Kitimat, B.C. In recent weeks, LNG Canada has been setting out in the news media its terms for expanding the project.
Project spokespeople have been telling the provincial government they want it to spend billions of dollars (your dollars) to build transmission lines to the industrial site so the project can use electricity, rather than burning gas, to increase capacity to export fracked gas to Asia. To be clear, Canadians will never use any of the energy it intends to generate.
That’s after the more than $5 billion in public financing LNG Canada has already enjoyed at our expense for Phase 1 of the project.
Maybe it’s just me, but that seems shameless and indicative of the “grotesque greed” we have come to know and not love from the world’s giant oil and gas companies.
Another egregious feature of LNG industry expansion falls under the heading of “affordability.” At a time when so many people are struggling to get by and making grim choices between buying groceries or heating their homes, LNG expansion would make life more expensive for British Columbians who heat their homes with gas.
At a time when so many people are struggling to get by and making grim choices between buying groceries or heating their homes, LNG expansion would make life more expensive for British Columbians who heat their homes with gas.
By driving demand for fracked gas to feed LNG production in regions where gas companies see greater returns by exporting LNG, local prices have increased for consumers. If you have a gas furnace, you would end up paying more to heat your home — all so enormous oil and gas companies can ship LNG to distant markets.
Whether it’s taking public money in the form of subsidies and preferential tax treatment (your money) or driving up your household costs, the LNG export industry is nothing but bad news for many of us who neither can nor want to own shares in big oil and gas.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room — the climate crisis.
UN secretary general António Guterres has been crystal clear in his criticism of the fossil fuel industry as he urges our governments — all of us — to pay attention and act on the climate crisis before it’s too late. He said, “Emissions remain at dangerous and record highs and are still rising. We must close the emissions gap before climate catastrophe closes in on us all.”
But with billions of dollars flowing into the coffers of big oil and gas companies as they profiteer in the midst of pandemic and geopolitical crises, they want more. More oil and gas projects. More obscene profits. And more money (your money) to lubricate the frenzy.
Here’s Guterres again, as he speaks truth to the power that is big oil and gas: “Your core product is our core problem. We need a renewables revolution, not a self-destructive fossil fuel resurgence.”
Your core product is our core problem. We need a renewables revolution, not a self-destructive fossil fuel resurgence. – UN secretary general António Guterres
Yet, right here in British Columbia, LNG Canada and others are pushing our government to allow massive expansion of the industry.
Ground-breaking research released last summer revealed that the fossil fuel industry makes $3 billion in profits every day. That’s not a typo. Every. Single. Day. Moreover, the industry has been generating these almost unimaginable profits for 50 years.
When you do the math, you arrive at the staggering figure of more than $1 trillion in profits every year. If $1 trillion sounds like a lot of money to you, you’re right. The world’s sole military hyperpower, the United States, funds its global military force with a bit less than the fossil fuel industry makes every year in pure profit.
The power, privilege, sense of entitlement and destructive force of the fossil fuel industry are unrivalled in history. The industry’s reach is so pervasive as to extend into every aspect of our lives. It’s woven throughout our politics and the politics of the world. It needs to be reined in.
The power, privilege, sense of entitlement and destructive force of the fossil fuel industry are unrivalled in history… It needs to be reined in.
The B.C. government can take a stand against big oil and gas companies’ greed by saying no to any expansion of the LNG export industry beyond LNG Canada Phase 1. In so doing, Premier David Eby would greatly enhance the government’s ability to meet ambitious climate targets and liberate public investment for the much-needed transition to the renewable energy economy we so urgently need.
This op-ed was originally published in Canada’s National Observer.