May 6th, 2022

Contact: Erik Mebust, erik@climatepower.us

(Washington, D.C.) – This week, the first earnings reports since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine continued to roll in from the largest publicly traded oil and gas companies. The profits by just 13 oil and gas companies totalled $46 billion, over $27 billion of which they returned to shareholders through stock buybacks and dividend payments as part of $65.5 billion in planned payments to shareholders this year. Statements made by CEOs of the various companies left little doubt that this massive windfall was attributable to profiteering off the war in Ukraine.

“We talked about share buybacks maybe changed – well, you know, can I also say that the performance we are seeing this quarter of course has been helped by the macro and the macro has been impacted by the war in Ukraine,“ said Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden in the livestreamed remarks. “We do have a better company, we do have a better performance, and yes indeed our shareholders will benefit from that as well.”

“It’s a new low even for Shell to publicly brag about wartime profiteering while Ukrainians risk their lives fighting Vladimir Putin’s war,” said Climate Power Senior Advisor Noreen Nielsen. “Van Beurden’s comments are just another example of how comfortable oil and gas CEOs are squeezing hardworking families at the pump in order to make their wealthy shareholders a few billion dollars richer. Real energy security comes only from breaking our dependence on this corrupt cartel and transitioning to clean energy.“

Just last week, Speaker Pelosi stood with Majority Leader Schumer and other leading Democrats to state unequivocally: “Big Oil has profiteered in this, has exploited the marketplace… they are hoarding the windfall, while keeping prices high for people at the pump… there’s no excuse for Big Oil companies to profiteer, to price gouge, or exploit families.” In March, President Biden also called out Big Oil for profiteering off the crisis in Ukraine.

Van Beurden’s comments come after several months of Big Oil executives openly admitting to using inflation as a cover to raise prices on consumers and reward their shareholders. “We’re not going to change our growth rate,” said Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield. “We think it’s important to return cash back to the shareholders.”

The New York Times reported this week that oil companies are not increasing production to help our European allies wean themselves off of Russian gas and oil as they undertake an expedited transition to clean energy because oil companies are more interested in enriching investors. One major Texas producer, Pioneer Natural Resources, admitted it was cutting its targeted production increase from 20 percent to just 5 percent in order to return a full 80 percent of its cash flow back to investors.

The global nature of oil and gas markets means that as long as the U.S. relies on fossil fuels, we will be vulnerable to disruptions from brutal petro-dictators like Vladimir Putin. Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus declared in a recent ad from Clean Energy For America that “Dependence on fossil fuels is a national security vulnerability for the U.S, and by transitioning to clean energy, we can improve our energy security and energy independence.”

In the meantime, a tax on windfall oil profits would help stop price-gouging by oil and gas CEOs and provide Americans with immediate relief at the gas station. The Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse would take excess profits and return the money directly to Americans via monthly checks. Recent polling by Hart Research found that 80% of voters—including 73% of Republicans—supported a windfall tax.