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BP and Shell oil corporations caused $50 BILLION of environmental damage last year



Campaigners call for windfall tax on North Sea oil firms

BP and Shell caused almost $50bn (27bn) of environmental and social damage last year - double the amount of profits they made in the past 12 months - according to green campaigners, who urged the Government to slap a windfall tax on the oil and gas industry.

Campaigners want Gordon Brown to use the money raised from taxing the soaring profits of North Sea oil companies to fund a long-term programme to tackle the impacts of global warming they are accused of causing.

The WWF, the conservation charity, said the Treasury had reaped a double windfall from the North Sea: years of robust economic growth and billions of pounds for the coffers of the Exchequer. It said none of the money had been used to insure against either the eventual depletion of supplies of oil and gas or mitigate the long-term damage to the ozone layer.

In a joint report with the new economics foundation (NEF), a left-of-centre think tank, it said the UK's stance contrasted with countries such as Norway that had amassed a $210bn (111bn) fund by taxing oil profits.

"Britain has squandered its windfall of natural resources from North Sea oil and gas," Andrew Simms, the policy director at NEF and the lead author of the report, said.

James Leaton, the WWF's oil policy officer, said: "The UK needs to admit to its addiction to oil, and make a tough decision to get clean."

The WWF and NEF calculated the damage wrought by oil companies' products on the environment. They are publishing their report in a week that will see BP and Shell post their latest results. Tomorrow BP will say it made $4.74bn (2.52bn) in the third quarter of the year, analysts believe. On Thursday Shell will unveil a larger $5.7bn (3bn) - equivalent to 12bn a year.

The report also comes as the Treasury is putting together the details of its pre-Budget report. The Chancellor used last year's PBR to impose a windfall tax on the North Sea.

The WWF and NEF urged the Treasury to create an "oil legacy fund" that would invest in technologies to boost the transition to a sustainable energy system.

Mr Simms said: "Instead of oil companies profiteering from climate change and oil depletion, a windfall tax could establish an oil legacy fund to pay for Britain's transition to a sustainable, decentralised energy system."

The report proposed a new form of levy that was linked to the world oil price and to demand for extra spending needed to offset the impact of climate change.

It said the money should be used to fund a range of activities such as the developing renewable energy technologies.

The North Sea oil industry said it was opposed to any windfall tax, saying the WWF's plans were "foolish". The UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) said the industry had been hit with the two windfall taxes in 2002 and 2005 that had added 20 per cent to its corporation tax bill.

Trisha O'Reilly, the UKOOA's spokeswoman, said: "We have delivered huge benefits to the country in terms of security of supply. Without us the country would have been 30bn worse off last year."

The Treasury said it had given a guarantee at the time of the imposition of the 2005 levy that there would no further increases during this parliament.

Seven out of eight companies say climate change will not affect them

Only one in eight companies in the FTSE 350 index see their operations as being at high risk from climate change, leading to a lack of action to adapt to the effects of global warming, according to a report.

Even though 90 per cent of the FTSE 350 companies expressed concern about climate change, most are not changing the way they do business to cope with its impact, a survey by the Carbon Disclosure Project and climate risk management specialists Acclimatise found. The study claims to be the first authoritative report on business adaptation to climate change - as opposed to efforts to reduce its carbon emissions.

John Firth, the report's author and managing director of Acclimatise, said: " For the first time, the Carbon Disclosure Project asked companies not just about mitigating carbon emissions but how they are adapting to the reality of climate change. The worrying fact is that while awareness is increasing, this is not matched by positive action. This is a ticking time bomb for UK business."

The utilities sector showed the most awareness about global warming, with 50 per cent of companies highly concerned.


SOURCE

The Independent, "Campaigners call for windfall tax on North Sea oil firms", 23 October 2006.
http://news.independent.co.uk/business/news/article1919390.ece

"The Insider" mailing list article, 23 October 2006.

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