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Editorial: Record energy profits hard to defend

As households continue to feel the pain of soaring prices and look towards winter with a sense of profound trepidation, the staggering profits announced by BP this week will cause widespread consternation.

The oil giant said second-quarter profits more than trebled to £6.9 billion during April, May and June - its biggest quarterly profit for 14 years. It is also more than three times the amount made in the same period last year.

Rival multinational Shell last month posted massive profits for the same quarter, banking £9 billion.

These are astounding figures and to put them in some sort of context, as this paper reported yesterday, the combined profits in the last three months of both companies is more than the funding provided to run the Northern Ireland economy for a year.

The energy companies are reaping the benefits of the huge increase in oil and gas prices since the start of the year.

The continuing war in Ukraine is fuelling not only enormous price rises but also fears of severe gas shortages in Europe this winter.

All this has enormous implications on a global scale but is also having a major impact on individuals and families trying to cope with one price shock after another.

Despite these vast profits, there is no indication that we will see price reductions in the near future, which is very disappointing.

For many households facing annual bills of more than £3,600, according to recent estimates, the record sums pouring into the coffers of energy firms will be hard to defend.

As we know, Boris Johnson's government was initially reluctant to introduce a windfall tax on the profits of energy firms earlier this year but as the cost of living crisis worsened, then chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £5 billion tax on North Sea oil and gas producers in May.

However, Liz Truss, the frontrunner to become the next Conservative party leader and UK prime minister, has declared that she does not believe in windfall taxes, saying they 'send the wrong message to the world.'

It is essential that the energy giants invest in low-carbon technologies and this process needs to happen quickly.

But people struggling to heat their homes this winter need help now. There remains uncertainty in Northern Ireland over the £400 payment being rolled out across Britain but even that money will not be enough to make a real difference for many families.

More will be required and the energy companies must play their part.

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