Coal companies triple profits while the planet burns

By Isidora Duran Stewart

The devastating effects of the profit-driven climate crisis reached a new height in 2022, the hottest year on record for Europe and the second hottest across Asia and North America. Pakistan was hit by catastrophic floods, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya experienced their longest-running drought when the rainy season failed to arrive for the fifth consecutive year, and wildfires broke out across Europe, Australia and North America. 

All the while, the world’s largest coal mining companies tripled their profits to $97.7 billion!

War in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine alone increased coal demand by 1.2% after sanctions on Russia, a major coal and gas exporter, majorly disrupted the global supply chain. The coal industry took immediate advantage of people’s need for energy and warmth by hiking their prices. Last year, the benchmark price for high-quality thermal coal in Europe was an average of $295 – double that of the previous year, and close to four times higher than the average price throughout the 2010s.

Glencore earned $13.2 billion in the 12 months ending on 30 June, compared with $1.2 billion the year before, China Shenhua made $12.2 billion, compared with $288 million, and BHP brought in $9.5 billion. Ordinary people were trusted into an energy and cost of living crisis which the owners of these companies directly profited from.

Before the boom in coal prices, BHP and Anglo American sold their combined 66% stake in the Cerrejón coal mine in Columbia, which exports coal to Europe, to Glencore for $101 million in cash. The Cerrejón mine made $2 billion in earnings during the first half of 2022, and the sale was described by mining analyst Ben Davis as “the best deal anyone has ever seen.” Only under the anarchic free market of capitalism would the astronomical profits made from a coal mine in the midst of a climate and energy crisis be praised!

An urgent struggle

The incremental crises of capitalism are set to continue deepen. Climate change, cost of living hikes, war; they are all related in that they are products of and driven by a rotten system that has to go, now more than ever. Working-class poeple, those who are keeping society afloat amidst these crises, have the capacity and power to remove this profit motive and overthrow capitalism.

The nationalisation of energy companies is essential to combat the existential threat of climate change. Public ownership of all key sectors of the economy, with working people at the heart of management, as well as a democratically planned economy is the only way to guarantee the necessary transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. A democratic socialist society would be one that ensures the resources are concentrated to bring about a zero-carbon economy. 

Our planet is burning and capitalism is daily throwing more fuel on the fire. The struggle to get rid of it is an urgent one.

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