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Daily Express (UK): Motorists protest at Shell's £13bn profits

'It is absolutely ridiculous with drivers hit on all sides by tax and profiteering'
OIL giant Shell provoked a backlash from motorists yesterday after making profits of £1.5million an hour last year – a record for a UK business.
The company – full name Royal Dutch Shell – generated £12.93billion during 2005, up 30 per cent on the previous year. That amounts to £400-a-second profit.
Shell bosses said the company had benefited from high world-wide oil and gas prices.
But last night the firm came under attack from consumer groups and environmentalists. “It is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous,” said Andrew Spence, chairman of the Fuel Lobby which last year organised protests to galvanise the Government into bringing down tax on fuel. “Yet again the British motorist is being hammered by, if not excessive taxation, then excessive profiteering. We are getting hit on all sides.”
Shell chief executive Jeroen van der Veer, who earned £l.77million in salary and expected bonuses, rejected the criticism. He said: “It is not correct to think that all the profits are coming out of the UK. It is a world market and these are world market prices. This is the reality of the world.” He added: “Our good performance in the fourth quarter 2005 gives us a solid platform to build on in 2006. We delivered record cash and earnings. Success in exploration and gaining access to new resources continues.”
Shell said its profits came from more than 140 countries, with operations outside the UK making up significantly more than 90 per cent of the figures.
Mr van der Veer said Shell had invested significantly in the UK over the past 10 years and this had been very important for the UK economy.
But Roger King, of the Road Haulage Association, said: “How much of this profit is generated-by sweat and how much because of the record price of a barrel of oil? We suspect it is the latter. “Shell has benefited from high global prices.
Meanwhile, road hauliers' dependent on corresponding high price of diesel can barely make ends meet with increasing numbers going out of business. It seems all gain for some, and all pain for others. “We suggest that the Government takes a little more from the oil companies and uses this to reduce fuel tax for road transport operators, a tax that is still some 24p per litre more on average than that paid by our EU competitors.”
Other critics were more concerned about the home-heating costs faced by pensioners this winter. Derek Simpson, general secretary of union Amicus, said: “It's difficult to reconcile these colossal profits with the fact that some of the most vulnerable people in society can't heat their homes and industry is struggling to keep going.”
Karen Darby of price comparison and switching service SimplySwitch.com said: “It's not just motorists that get hit by high oil prices. “Every household will feel the pinch – from the increased cost of manufacturing everyday items such as supermarket plastic bags to oil-fired power stations which generate electricity.
Householders have, seen their energy bills rocket in the past year and have been told to expect further rises of up to 15 per cent in 2006. With providers blaming increases on the rise in the wholesale cost, this latest profit announcement will not be well received.” She urged lower-income customers to check to ensure they were getting the best deal.
Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, said he was concerned the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer. “Part of this windfall should be handed back to the public through a one-off tax to help ease the pensions crisis facing thousands of workers,” he said.
Friends of the Earth also called for a windfall tax on Shell, which it claimed was profiting from climate change, with the revenue invested in renewable technologies to heat and power public buildings. Spokesman Craig Bennett, said: “Shell is profiting from the current high oil prices, but we are all paying the price. Oil companies must be forced to face up to their wider responsibilities -on climate change, on the environment and on human rights.”
A Shell spokeswoman said: “Fuel prices in the UK before tax are among the cheapest in Europe. Fierce competition in the UK has driven down prices making fuel retailing a high-volume low-margin business.”

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