Glencore, the world’s largest coal shipper, is cashing in on the global energy crisis to the tune of nearly $9 billion in the first six months of 2022, and plans to pay out more than half – $4.45 billion – to shareholders in dividends and buybacks. The Switzerland-based trader on Tuesday reported a first half earnings increase of 877% over the same period last year.
Glencore produces more than 100 million tonnes a year of thermal coal at its mines in Australia, Colombia, and South Africa. And unlike most of its direct competitors who have shifted some mining business to commodities such as iron ore or copper, which have both fallen significantly this year, Glencore spurned investor pressure to move away from the dirtiest source of fuel. It is now reaping the benefits as countries across Europe and around the world delayed or scrapped plans to wind down coal power generation as Russia’s war in Ukraine has limited the global gas supply, tripling the price of coal.
Similarly, the gas industry is raking in record earnings.
While the record payouts are legal, critics say the fossil fuel industry is essentially profiteering off war and climate disaster, especially as consumers are being forced to sharply cut their energy consumption yet see their utility bills spike.
On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres accused the industry of “grotesque greed” and urged leaders to impose a windfall tax that would be used to help people struggling to pay their energy bills.
“It is immoral for oil and gas companies to be making record profits from this energy crisis on the backs of the poorest people and communities, at a massive cost to the climate,” Guterres said. “I urge all governments to tax these excessive profits, and use the funds to support the most vulnerable people through these difficult times.”