Governments should tax companies to help vulnerable customers deal with soaring energy costs, argued Shell’s chief executive Ben van Beurden.
The energy boss warned that historically high wholesale costs and the huge volatility in the markets threatened social stability.
He believed an intervention in the market was necessary to protect the poorest energy users as a “societal reality.”
Speaking at the Energy Intelligence Forum in London, he said: “You cannot have a market that behaves in such a way…that is going to damage a significant part of society. One way or another there needs to be government intervention that somehow results in protecting the poorest. That probably means that governments need to tax people in this room to pay for it.”
A Shell spokesperson later clarified that van Beurden was not endorsing any particular tax being levied.
He also was not referring to specific people, but rather companies and sectors.
Governments across Europe have been grappling with runaway energy prices this winter, largely stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent supply shortage fears.
The UK has unveiled a two-year price cap freeze and emergency business support estimated at well over £100bn, while Germany has committed to a €200bn package.
EU countries approved levies on energy firms’ windfall profits last week, while the UK brought in an Energy Profits Levy on oil and gas producers in May.
Van Beurden was less convinced about the prospect of gas price caps, which are currently being weighed up by the European Union (EU).
He said: “Can we make a meaningful intervention in gas markets here in Europe? That is a much more challenging prospect. The solution should not be government intervention but protection of those who need protection.”
The veteran oil executive is expected to step down from his role at Shell at start of next year.
His pay package reached $8.2 million in 2021 and could rise further in 2022 ,after Shell reported record profits in the second quarter of the year.