YOU’LL have heard the news. Shell has just announced record-breaking annual profits of more than £32 billion – its highest profits in 115 years.

The same week, the company admitted it had paid just $134 million in British windfall taxes during 2022.

It’s the same week that British Gas – whose profits are also up by 700% – went to the courts for warrants to break into the homes of the poorest households in the country to force-fit prepayment meters, which leave their customers cold and unable to cook.

Iain Conn, the former head of British Gas owner Centrica saw his pay jump 44% to £2.4m only two years ago, so no one’s knocking his door in.

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The obscenity of predatory capitalism was starker than ever last week.

Shell’s new chief executive Wael Sawan, hailed the massive profits in a recent YouTube video: “The world needs its energy to be increasingly low carbon as we transition to a net-zero future. Shell’s strategy is the right one for this balanced energy transition ... We’re doing our part, working to be the trusted partner of choice of our customers, government and investors.”

This is more lies. As the activist group Global Witness has exposed, just 1.5% of Shell’s capital expenditure has been used to develop genuine renewables, such as wind and solar, with much of the rest of the division’s resources devoted to gas, which is a fossil fuel.

This despite the company’s claim in its most recent annual report that 12% of its capital expenditure was funneled into something called “renewables and energy solutions in 2021”.

The company’s webpage, is festooned with pictures of wind turbines and solar panels, declares it is working to invest in “wind, solar, electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, and more”.

As Rishi Sunak hands out more North Sea licences for new oil and gas fields to the “Trusted Partner of Choice” the climate catastrophe goes into a new freefall.

As Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, and Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, have repeatedly said, these profits could be redirected to help struggling households pay their energy bills by way of a vastly increased windfall tax.

But this doesn’t really cut it. I mean, they could, but they won’t tax Big Oil a bit more – instead they carry on lying and we will carry on paying and the world will carry on burning.

When confronted about why they should not consider being charged under new laws of ecocide against humanity, Shell’s head in the UK, David Bunch, has said that it would be companies like Shell and BP that would at the forefront of the transition to a new clean economy.

Under questioning from Labour’s Clive Lewis, he said: “It is going to be companies like Shell and BP that have the project management, have the financial muscle, are prepared to provide the transparency, that are going to able to get this enormous transition accomplished.”

I suppose it takes the idea of gaslighting into new territory, but the hubris and the level of denial is, like their profits, off the chart.

WE’RE being ripped off at the production end of the process and ripped off at the consumption end.

As I reported last month, anti-poverty campaigners have called for an immediate ban on pre-payment meter (PPM) installations made under court warrants because of fears that energy suppliers are using them to disconnect the poorest, most indebted customers “by the back door”.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition said transferring households on to PPMs, which require regular top-ups and charge for energy at a higher rate, often prompted people in debt to “self-disconnect”.

Now, after an undercover report by The Times, the reality of British Gas enforcement has been revealed.

As Gaby Hinsliff wrote (Energy bailiffs for the poorest, huge profits for the richest: this is Britain in 2023): “Elderly ladies make easy pickings. Single parents, the new recruit was told, are also a mainstay of the trade.

“So harden your heart to their pleading, even if they do have tiny children, because: ‘If every single mum that starts getting a bit teary you’re going to walk away from, you won’t be earning any bonus’.

“Just get yourself inside the house and fit that prepayment meter, even though it will cut off their gas if they can’t afford to keep their credit topped up, leaving them to shiver in the dark.”

But as with Big Oil, Big Gas won’t be constrained by some small measure to halt the violence of breaking into people’s homes. Just as we need to immediately cease and dismantle the oil and gas industry we need to re-think heating and access to a habitable home as a human right not a source of profit.

We need clean renewable energy companies to be in public hands (in whatever form that takes) immediately and we need both a mass Passivhaus programme and mass energy-descent plan.

None of this will happen with British Gas running a predatory gang or climate criminals in charge of oil. These are not “Trusted Partners of Choice” they are enemies of the people and planet.

IN a sense, there’s a mirror effect going on here. Shell and Co are making the planet uninhabitable. But British Gas and Co are making society unliveable well in advance of that reality.

The dark irony – and this really should be motivating apart from anything else – is that while the poorest are forced into destitution, their carbon profile is marginal, like them. But those that are profiteering from this exploitation will be spewing out emissions by their most extravagant lifestyles.

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Cute isn’t it?

What has this got to do with Scotland?

Well, we can and must define a prospectus for an independent country that is committed to ceasing fossil fuel production as well as creating the conditions for decency in society around the provision of affordable and liveable homes.

We must play our small part in the fight against climate catastrophe. The fight against omnicide (the destruction of everything) is the moral task not just of our generation but of our species.

The faster we can cut our ties from this twin obscenity, the better. The time for trusting these grotesque institutions or hand-wringing with paltry compromises is long overdue.