International oil giant BP has announced huge profits after crude prices rebounded as economies worldwide reopened following the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes after Scotland’s energy secretary has warned of a “real risk” people could die in the months ahead with the country facing its highest hike in fuel bills yet.
BP, which operates in the North Sea with its base in Aberdeen, has swung to a mammoth £9.5bn annual profit after notching up more than £3bn in the final three months of the year alone.
The hefty profit haul for 2021 overall comes after the biggest annual loss in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic – slumping to £13.4bn in the red.
Shareholders benefited from cash returns with £1.1bn of share buybacks before the 2022 first-quarter results.
The results come amid mounting pressure on the sector as the cost of living crisis deepens, with calls growing for a windfall tax on energy giants.
Environmental lawyer Tessa Khan told STV News: “We are way overdue for a real reckoning with the way that we are encouraging these oil and gas companies to extract oil and gas in a climate emergency, in an energy crisis that is driven by our dependency on gas and the fact that these companies are just really, as I said, treating the UK as a cash machine.”
Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth Scotland called BP’s profits “obscene”.
“BP and other fossil fuel bosses are getting even richer as the price of energy pushes millions more homes into fuel poverty and forces people to choose between heating and eating,” said Ryan Morrison, the group’s just transition campaigner.
Fellow oil giant Shell faced criticism last week after it reported a surge in profits on the same day as Ofgem announced a near £700 rise in the energy price cap.
Scotland’s energy secretary Michael Matheson said up to 900,000 homes in Scotland could either be in fuel poverty or extreme fuel poverty as a result of bills jumping.
Almost half of parents in Scotland are already finding it harder to pay their bills ahead of looming energy costs and other rising prices.
As well as the cost of gas and electricity rocketing by more than 50%, interest rates have also risen, for the second time in three months, as the Bank of England said it was trying to tackle a rapid rise in the cost of living.
On Friday, Scottish Water announced household water bills are to increase by 4.2% for the next year.
Citizens Advice Scotland has warned about increasing demand for energy advice following the then-record price cap rise of around £140 in October 2021.
“There is a real risk that lives will be lost this year out of this financial crisis,” said Michael Matheson MSP.
Both the Scottish and UK Governments have announced plans to curb the cost of living crisis.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that all households will receive a £200 discount on bills from October, but that will have to be repaid over five years.
Families with children at risk of going into care or with experience of care in Scotland will share a £3m fund to help them with cost of living pressures.
Bernard Looney, chief executive of BP, said: “2021 shows BP doing what we said we would – performing while transforming.
“We’ve strengthened the balance sheet and grown returns. We’re delivering distributions to shareholders with $4.15bn of buybacks announced and the dividend increased. And we’re investing for the future.
“We’ve made strong progress in our transformation to an integrated energy company, focusing and high grading our hydrocarbons business, growing in convenience and mobility and building with discipline a low-carbon energy business.”