Fox News calls him the “baby brat in the hoodie.” The New York Post claims he “sponged off his tony parents.” The Washington Post says he is “running a brilliant campaign.” He’s John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, who’s a candidate for the US Senate on the Democratic ticket. Among the many positions he’s taken to appeal to working people, none is more powerful or poignant than his condemnation of “big, price gouging corporations that are making record profits while jacking up prices for all of us.”
The biggest of the corporations that need to be held accountable is Big Oil.
Fetterman uses the example of “massive oil companies” to hammer home that his state has the right to crack down on “corporations that are ripping us off.”
His comments were part of an editorial to the Times Leader on August 21.
For example, he says, look no further than Chevron, Exxon, and Shell. They “have seen their profits increase 200% since last year, but they’re still charging us sky-high prices for gas.” As in 2021, record profits were recorded during the second quarter of 2022.
- Chevron made a record $11.62 billion profit.
- ExxonMobil booked an unprecedented $17.85 billion profit.
- Shell shattered its own profit record and posted an $11.5 billion profit.
Many of these profits are attributable to higher realized prices, higher refining margins, higher gas and power trading, optimization results, and lower LNG trading.
He calls this profit making on the backs of everyday citizens “gross and deeply unpatriotic, for the big corporations to be rolling around in cash while charging us record high prices for gas.”
Yet Fetterman has a plan. If elected, he’ll “crack down on this by prosecuting the executives of these huge corporations, including the big oil companies” as they continue to be “artificially driving up prices, gouging consumers at the pump.”
Others, Too, Are Calling Out Fossil Fuels Profits
Earlier this month, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) wrote to 4 major oil companies, demanding answers for how they are using their record high profits and business plan strategies to alleviate consumer burdens due to record gas prices. “The Committee is investigating what oil companies could and should be doing to help bring down gas prices,” Pallone wrote in the letters. “As one of the largest private oil companies in the world, your company is positioned to help alleviate Americans’ pain at the pump, but I am concerned that you are more focused on rewarding company executives and shareholders.”
President Joe Biden also has accused oil companies of profiteering off surging energy prices. In a June letter to 7 top executives, he demanded that they explain their decision to limit refining capacity and announced that his administration would hold an “emergency meeting” to discuss ways of stemming the crisis. “At a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable,” Biden said in the letter. Later in the month, the administration suspended the 18-cent gas tax for a 90 day period to bring down the price of gas and “give families just a little bit of relief.” Biden called “on the companies to pass this along — every penny of this 18-cents reduction — to the consumers. This is — there’s no time now for profiteering.”
Britain, home of BP and Shell, has announced a special tax on the oil industry’s “extraordinary” profits. The special tax would help raise funds for direct payments to households, totaling about 15 billion pounds (about $19 billion) to ease the country’s cost-of-living crisis.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres believes the profit-and-squeeze-’em-dry business model of fossil fuel megacorporations represents “gross greed.” The only solution, he argued, is to aggressively tax these corporations’ profits.
The combined profits of the largest energy companies in the first quarter of this year are close to $100 billion.
This grotesque greed of the fossil fuel industry and their financiers is punishing the poorest and most vulnerable people, while destroying our only home.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) August 4, 2022
What’s To Be Done about Corporate Malfeasance, According To Fetterman?
The Senate candidate from Pennsylvania is looking to “patriotic, pro-America, and pro-worker solutions,” noting that “they’re just plain common sense.” His center-left policies include women’s reproductive choice, capping insulin costs at $35, and supporting the Inflation Reduction Act. Fetterman has drawn upon a regular guy, relatable persona to make personal connections with the state’s citizenry.
“This week, I released my plan to hold Washington accountable,” he said, noting that “these aren’t Democratic or Republican solutions.” Instead, his plan “will improve the lives of working Pennsylvanians.”
Because “out-of-touch politicians in Washington have sold out people on factory floors to benefit their friends in corporate boardrooms, passing bad trade deals that have sent thousands of good-paying jobs overseas,” Fetterman says the US needs to focus on “making more stuff right here in America and bringing jobs home.”
He’ll also “crack down” on Big Oil and other corporations “that are making record profits while jacking up prices for all of us.” While the specifics to do so weren’t included in his editorial, nonetheless, Fetterman insists his priorities “can make real change for the towns, cities, and people of Pennsylvania.”
The 5 biggest Western oil companies — BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and TotalEnergies — generated some $60 billion in profit for the 2022 second quarter. The surge in earnings followed a spike in crude oil, natural gas, and gasoline prices this year. As the New York Times reported, these energy giants also spent about $25 billion in the first half of the year buying back their own shares, which primarily rewards shareholders by raising the value of stocks.
We can also add coal to the list of Q2 2022 fossil fuel profit gougers. Glencore, the world’s largest coal shipper, generated record profits in the first half of 2022 and plans to pay out an additional $4.5 billion in dividends and buybacks to shareholders.
But there is good news with coal addiction: Hawai’i’s only coal plant is on track to burn its last shipment of fuel and shut down by September 1. The state is producing renewable power and storing it in batteries, per a landmark 2015 law, and has added wind and solar generation. This is the first time it will merge building new clean energy with shutting down a major fossil-fueled plant.
So it seems what it takes to stifle fossil fuel profits, more than anything, is to replace them with renewables. Letters and long speeches imploring them to do the right thing can only be a start; it takes overt government opposition to fossil fuels to break Big Oil’s corporate hold on everyday citizens.
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