Thursday

1st Dec 2022

Price hikes prompt scrutiny of fossil fuel revenues

  • It is estimated that one in four households in the EU, over 50 million people, cannot afford to warm their homes adequately (Photo: kishjar?)
Listen to article

Energy giants have seen a huge surge in profits amid rising energy costs for all European consumers — a brewing crisis which has triggered anger and concern among progressive MEPs and green groups.

It is estimated that one in four households in the EU, over 50 million people, cannot afford to warm their homes adequately.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Meanwhile, the surge in gas prices, combined with high oil prices, have pushed up revenues for the world's biggest fossil fuel companies.

Oil firm BP last week reported eight-year-high profits for 2021 at $12.8bn [€11.3bn]. Rivals such as TotalEnergies and Shell have also announced huge revenues compared to the previous year.

The figures, however, stand in contrast with the situation of many poor and vulnerable households in the EU struggling to pay their electricity bills, and bearing the burden of high energy prices.

Add to the mix increasing geopolitical tensions, and energy poverty is now firmly in the spotlight — prompting calls for a debate over possible EU-wide measures beyond merely market-based solutions.

Some EU governments have taken short-term actions at domestic level, capping prices, imposing temporary tax breaks, or even intervening in markets.

But, for some lawmakers, inflation and energy supply concerns have put the EU's energy market design into question.

Left-wing MEPs have launched a campaign against the "corporate greed" that is emerging from the energy crisis.

"Energy should not be considered as a commodity, energy is a right," German MEP Cornelia Ernst said during a panel discussion on Friday (11 February).

"We need to completely rethink the system of energy and create a new system that works for all the people but also the planet," she added.

Fellow leftist Spanish lawmaker Sira Rego warned against blindly trusting the market to sort out the rising energy prices.

The impact of energy prices on vulnerable households, however, is also triggering concerns among more mainstream centre-left MEPs who want to speed up a new climate fund, designed to help tackle this kind of energy poverty in the EU.

"We need a fundamental debate about our energy system and how we can make it more fair and just, [because] most costs are passed through consumers while companies' profits are just rising more and more," Dutch S&D lawmaker Mohammed Chahim told EUobserver.

The current situation, Chahim said, also should deepen the debate about fossil-fuel subsidies, which accounted for up to €58bn per year in the last decade.

He added that fossil-fuel companies should step up investment in clean energies, which would reduce the EU's energy dependency on countries like Russia as well as help stabilise prices.

Green groups, meanwhile, have said the current system is pushing consumers deeper into poverty and the planet closer to a climate breakdown.

"Our energy system makes executives and shareholders at fossil gas companies like Shell and Total unimaginably rich, while condemning millions of people across Europe to suffer in cold, draughty homes they are unable to afford to heat," said Murray Worthy, a campaigner at NGO Global Witness.

Opinion

EU gas lobby in celebration mode

Eurogas is a considerable fossil fuel lobby power in Brussels, with nine lobbyists that hold passes to the European Parliament, and a body that has secured over 50 meetings with EU Commission officials since 2014.

Investigation

Asbestos — two to three times more deadly than known

Where once working men in heavy industry were diagnosed with cancers related to a more direct exposure to asbestos, now women in professions such as teaching, nursing and other occupations are being diagnosed, as well as young people.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  2. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  3. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  4. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?
  5. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  6. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  7. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  8. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us