How much of Shell’s record US $40 billion profit was due to the Ukraine war and freezing Russia out of the market?
If you apply the “excess deaths” methodology we became familiar with during covid, comparing profit against a running average of the previous five years, we get a figure of about $25 billion “excess profit”.
This is of course a rough technique, both with deaths as with profits, as neither covid nor the Ukraine war were the sole factor affecting the outcome, and “all other things” are not equal but in some degree variable.
But it is a good indication when a major new factor comes in to play.
If we simply remove Shell’s 2020 accounts, with their US$20 billion covid loss, from the equation as exceptional, we still have a figure of US$15 billion excess profit, arising largely from the war in Ukraine.
Isn’t it good to know that all those people have not died or been maimed in vain? At least Shell are raking it in.
Shell of course are not alone. We will see something similar from all the energy companies, including those that are billing you massive amounts to heat your home. It isn’t costing any more to produce the energy, it is simply vulture predation on market disruption.
Capitalism in theory works in free markets of trade flows. But in practice financial flows are manipulated by states to the benefit of the rich in numerous ways, of which war and sanctions are just the bluntest examples.
The United States blowing up the Nordstream 2 pipeline was a pretty significant state market intervention. Yet when the result of that kind of action is to cause super profits to western energy companies at consumer expense, market intervention to remove that super profit becomes “unhelpful”.
Arms manufacturers are also coining it. To December, investors in merchants of death BAE had seen an increase in value of their investment by 63% in twelve months. Now everybody with a finger in the pie is clamouring to send more tanks and planes to the Ukraine. Money, money, money.
The story is no different at Lockheed Martin etc.
We should also not forget that the military and security services are themselves a vested financial interest. Vastly rising budgets, more career opportunities, more second career jobs in the arms industries and the think tanks that pump out the propaganda for more war, war without end.
I have said this before, but J A Hobson’s short book, Imperialism: A Study contains analysis of how all this works that stands true over a hundred years on, is expressed with clarity, and fundamentally changed how I view the world, when I read it forty years ago.
There is yet more acceleration in the massive transfer of resources to the wealthy. Every world event – Covid, the war in Ukraine – is manipulated by states to increase inequality. Oxfam, who seem the most genuine of the large relief charities (admittedly not a high bar), recently published this:
Billionaires have seen extraordinary increases in their wealth. During the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis years since 2020, $26 trillion (63 percent) of all new wealth was captured by the richest 1 percent, while $16 trillion (37 percent) went to the rest of the world put together. A billionaire gained roughly $1.7 million for every $1 of new global wealth earned by a person in the bottom 90 percent. Billionaire fortunes have increased by $2.7 billion a day. This comes on top of a decade of historic gains —the number and wealth of billionaires having doubled over the last ten years.
In this western world, I am not sure what percentage of ordinary people have to reach what stage of desperation before we see the start of genuine revolt. Should things continue on this trend, we are going to find out eventually.
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