It’s interesting: the prospect of a windfall tax on the obscene profits of the energy companies really seems to have them worried. How can you tell? By looking at the flurry of articles trying to tell us ignorant proles that actually it’s a really bad idea (“unfair”!) and if you tax companies like Centrica (£1bn profit) or Shell (£2.3bn profit) they will get scared, run away hide or generally take their ball home. “We need them to invest!” is the cry.
This is of course, nonsense. Energy supply is a natural monopoly, competition in the market leading to lower prices is an ideological myth and as the country most exposed to the wholesale energy markets (everywhere else protects consumers from this kind of price gouging), we’re getting fucked over more than other countries.
The basis of their claim that actually they’re not doing well is that the companies are split into parts for residential, wholesale and supply. So British Gas can say that their profits from selling residential gas are down by 70%, so there’s no link to their parent company’s £1bn bonanza.
Anyone who’s worked in a large company, or even glanced at an annual report, knows that this is why businesses are split this way: to shuffle your profit and income around so you pay the minimum to the public purse. They have their fingers in the pie at each point of the energy supply chain, yet want to claim that they are vulnerable and suffering. It’s time for us to call them out on it.
Take this quote from one recent article:
“Every £1m you take out of each company through this legalised raid is £1m they have to raise elsewhere.”
Now let’s try it without the default pro-business perspective you get from mainstream media:
“Every £100 you take out of each family through this legalised raid is £100 they have to raise elsewhere.”
Wouldn’t that be refreshing to read?
At the weekend, someone mentioned that an experiment in properly insulating a tower block in Easterhouse managed to reduce their heating bills to £40 per year. Why don’t we hear more about this kind of plan? Because reducing consumption isn’t what energy companies or their protector the government want. They’ll grudgingly cough up a tokenistic winter fuel payment to minimise the numbers killed by the cold and poverty every winter: after all that’s money that goes to the fuel companies. It doesn’t address the underlying problem: we need to use less energy while keeping our homes warm.
As anarchists, the state and taxation aren’t something we’re in favour of, but popular control of natural resources must be. In the absence of worker-controlled energy supply, I don’t see a problem with hitting back against profiteering, especially if the money is used for permanent improvements to the condition of homes.
Hey, if the Conspiracy of Business Interests is against it, it can’t be all bad….