The oil company, Shell, has announced record annual profits for a UK listed firm.
The group made $17.5bn (£9.32bn) after tax in 2004, partly due to the soaring price of oil.
The size of the profits have prompted renewed calls for a 'windfall tax', which could be used to help people who struggle to pay their fuel bills.
What do you think of Shell's profits? Should there be a windfall tax?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for you comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I think people who want an "extra tax on the really successful" have forgotten what kind of a place we live in. This is (our part of it at least) a capitalist world. The only thing to do is to reduce the price of oil in some way. Maybe not invading & occupying IRAQ would have helped.
Paul, North East England
It's amazing how economically illiterate many people are. Nowhere has anyone bothered to mention that those profits are on sales of £146 Billion - a profit margin of only about 6%. Many industries have far higher margins than that, but nobody complains.
Simon, Derby, England
Windfall tax? Say it as it is and call it a 'Too Successful' tax or a 'Sour Grapes from Joe Public' tax. I would support a windfall tax if they operated in a monopoly market but they don't and the moaners can quite happily buy their petrol from another supplier.
Adam, Stoke, England
Apparently the economy must not be as bad as many European "Have Your Say" respondents make it out to be.
Matt, Stockton, USA
It would be nice if Shell could re-invest in the people of Nigeria where their profits have been at the expense of the damage to the environment in the oil producing states. Shell should also provide more training and education for Nigerians rather than depend on expat labour for semi-skilled jobs.
Graham Jubb, Northop, Wales
Bravo to Shell. Imagine all the people who are making a living and can continue to support their families due to the stewardship of Shell's officers. Well done and continued success. I'm sure all the pensioners must feel better knowing their retirement funds are growing with the help of Shell shares. Good job!
Joe Pepe, New York, NY
That's okay. Shell is owned by our pension companies among others, which means if Shell are making big profits, our pensions are growing. Don't knock it.
I have no problem with their enormous profits as long as the majority of that money is being re-invested in development of clean fuels for the future.
So presumably none of the "moaners" in this discussion have pensions? Where do they think the money to pay them in their old age is going to come from? If companies like Shell make no money and pay no dividends then there will be no pensions!
John R Smith, UK
Eighty percent of the pump price is tax already - and people here want to add to that? Only about 16p per litre is not tax - after costs of exploration, extraction, refining and distributing are taken out Shell's profit is about 2p a litre - hardly ripping the consumer off.
Shell is not a UK or British company, it is a joint Anglo-Dutch venture, i.e. it is a European company. We are killing thousands defending democracy and the right to make as much money as you want to - if you think this is wrong then emigrate to a communist state!!
It is so British of us to complain when a company does well.
Dominic, Plymouth, UK
Such praise for a UK oil company! If the BBC had mentioned Texaco or ExxonMobil profits instead of Shell there would be widespread condemnation.
Looking at the comments so far one can only deduce that they are from the haves and have nots. Those who have shares and those who do not.
I cannot understand the people who praise Shell for being such a great company - there are a lot of successful companies, but is ripping of the consumer and encouraging pollution really something we should be proud of? I welcome good news from companies that have some values other than to rip people off. In this instance, Shell has quite clearly ripped off the consumer to increase profits, in HSBC's case, where they make huge profits; they have sacked UK workers and moved jobs to India to cut costs. Tesco are destroying the fabric of our small towns and villages. Do these companies deserve praise? I think not.
Why should they have to pay a windfall tax? They're a business so their whole point of existing is to make money, and in doing so contribute to the economy as a whole. We should be congratulating a British company for doing so well, rather than trying to beat them with a stick for being a success. Remember this is a global company, so hasn't made all the money by charging UK motorists at the petrol pump. Anyway, 80% of what we pay for petrol goes to the Treasury, so if anyone is robbing us it's the government.
Richard, Oxford, UK
It is nice to see that some people understand what a great company Shell is. They are ethical and are prime movers in the environmental area. If all multinational companies behaved as Shell do towards their local communities, then there would be no problems with globalisation. Good on you Shell!
Anthony, Fareham, UK
There's no wonder the planet is having to cope with the effects of global warming. If oil companies are making this sort of profit, it makes me wonder how much over-use of cars is taking place. It's almost a sort of environmental terrorism, what with unnecessary car journeys and bigger higher powered cars. I'm seriously contemplating trading in my Jeep, it just drinks the stuff!
Jon Murtagh, Waddington, Nr Lincoln
With the prices we pay at the pumps, I am not surprised at all by this but as the big oil companies are powerful enough that they can keep the price of fuel artificially high. I expect we'll see the same again next year.
Congratulations to Shell. I wish every UK company could record such excellent figures. Big profits mean big corporation tax bills so the country benefits. Realise only a small amount of profitability comes from UK petrol stations. Imposition of another windfall tax to make up for an out of control spendthrift government will only drive such companies away from UK registration which would be a lose-lose situation, i.e. higher unemployment, reduction in tax revenues. We need to stop small minded petty thinking.
James, Buckingham, UK
Well done to Shell, a real success for industry and should be reported and accepted as good news. But again we try to "rundown" a good news story, if as has been reported some members of the Labour party want to reduce the cost of fuel, why not reduce the tax burden on it. Companies need profits for the future and to reward the shareholders who have invested their own money why should we then look at introducing a windfall tax companies pay enough already.
Brian Stewart-Coxon, Scotland
Oil means real money and galloping profits. Shell should concentrate on cleaning the environment and on cleaner fuels and is duty-bound to do so. Windfall profits should be taxed proportionately and that is only fair. The poor struggling consumer should not be paying through his nose: oil prices are just far too high! Where's the justice in this?
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium
This is typical British moaning - a UK company does well, and the first reaction is to try and bring them down. When success is rewarded with backstabbing, why is it not a surprise that companies are wary of investing here?
Martin, England, UK
How short term we all are. Oil companies invest a lot of money in finding alternative sources of energy - after all the oil may run out one day. Exploration costs money and in the last few years with the oil price low that's one of the budgets that got cut. All oil companies have let a lot of people go and new blood isn't coming into the industry. More than one University has dropped its Geophysics courses. Rather than taking away the profits in a "Windfall" tax, the government should encourage the industry to invest in education and research. And the industry itself needs to invest in finding new sources of oil.
Not surprised. They are always so quick to put the prices up due to the cost of a barrel going up. Then, mysteriously, it all goes quiet when the cost of a barrel falls again. Oil companies never put their prices down by the same amount that the cost falls so they are always going to make more and more profit. No we don't want a windfall tax as that will just go to the Government and they already take a big enough slice of fuel prices - we just want prices to fall in line with the fall in oil prices.
Nick, Reading, UK
Well done to Shell: in spite of the reserves 'scandal' and their corporate restructuring, they have achieved a result which will reward those shareholders who held on to their shares through these difficult times. As such a shareholder, I look forward to receiving my dividend.
Louise, Glasgow, UK
Have we not forgotten that the Government has also benefited from the hike in the price of crude oil and has quietly enjoyed "windfall" duty receipts of its own. As a fuel duty payer can I have a refund from the government please.
David Burch, London
Good on Shell!! They are a business, and businesses are here to make money. Otherwise, they wouldn't be in business! If you grumble at petrol prices, then get out of your car and walk!!
What on earth do you do with $17 billion, other than make rich people richer? Isn't it about time we stopped applauding wealth creation and diverted the money and people's energies to where they are needed? i.e. start thinking about the future of mankind and the planet instead of individual standards of living and lining our own pockets? Big business stinks.
Nigel, Redhill, UK
In an ideal world, the huge profits Shell has recently made would be re-invested in helping ensuring a long-term future for the company, the environment and energy demand. However, petrol companies are unlikely to invest in renewable energy sources until the end of oil reserves is nearly upon us, if at all. Making a huge profit is not necessarily a bad thing. It was happens to the money that can be bad. I suspect that this money will disappear into the fat-cat executives' and share-holders' bank accounts, where it will benefit little benefit to the wider population.
N Rhodes, Leicestershire, UK
Two points: (1) 80% of the fuel price is tax in some form - it's not the oil companies (2) Since most of our pension funds (government and private) are invested heavily in the stock market, I'm quite happy for Shell (and other companies) to make even bigger profits - in fact, the bigger the better. If you wish to reap all the benefits of a capitalist economy, there is no point in complaining when companies make money.
What unpleasant jealousy from some people. Shell exists to make a profit, and a portion of that profit ensures that Gordon Brown doesn't have to take so much from the rest of us. If we're to introduce a windfall tax, it's only fair that we should also introduce a rainy-day tax to help companies when they lose money.
Richard, Nottingham, UK
I wonder how much this really has to do with inflated oil prices, and how much to do with our collective refusal to reduce fuel and energy consumption? Maybe the only reason the profits are so inflated is that we, the consumers, refuse to do anything to reduce our own dependence on oil. It's almost like an addition, isn't it?
David Hazel, Fareham, UK
Seeing as though we've all been paying inflated prices for petrol for the last few years, it's about time those who will benefit from Shell's huge profits were made to pay some back. In addition, lower petrol prices would be more than welcome.
Well isn't that a surprise? High oil prices were to blame for the high fuel prices but this shows it was also compounded by pure profiteering by the oil companies. The government will do nothing about this because they skim off their share of the fat in increased tax revenue, so the fat cats get fatter at the expense of the consumer. Mind you, it is an election year so if there are enough complaints and it looks like Mr Blair can gain another vote or two then there will no doubt be a "if we win the next election then we will do something about it" empty promise statement in the near future.
K Brown, Fleet, UK
So a generous cut in oil prices at the pump is looming to help those us of us who rely on our cars to get to work? No, thought not. Greed drives this industry and greed will remain.
Hope they enjoy it while it lasts - unless they use it to invest heavily in alternative sources of power, and not just line shareholders pockets, they're not going to have a business in a couple of decades!
Mark, Brighton, UK
How ironic that Shell's announcement of record profits coincides with a major conference in Exeter on climate change. I don't think a windfall tax really goes far enough. We need a major and fundamental review of our energy policies. A windfall tax is just one of a package of measures that needs to be in place to avert the looming environmental disaster.
Paul, London, UK
So it's bad to be successful now, is it? Remember folks, over 80% of the pump price of petrol goes to Duty and VAT. Why should it come down to the Oil companies to reduce that price when their cut of it isn't the part doing the damage to your pockets? Of course this 'windfall tax' is done in the guise of helping people pay heating bills, but whose pocket will the money ultimately end up in?
Richard Price, Chippenham, UK
All companies are in business to make a profit. However the oil companies really take the cake. As soon as the price of crude rises they are only too quick to raise the price of fuel particularly at the pumps. Once the price of crude falls they never lower their prices at the pumps. Forget the windfall tax, as the government gets enough out of the motorist and doesn't use the revenue on anything related to motorists or people struggling to pay fuel bills. They fritter it away on other non-related issues. Like MP's pension funds.
A windfall tax is a bad idea. There'll be many responses about how Shell should bring down fuel prices in the UK, but don't forget that the money isn't made on the UK forecourts, it's made worldwide. A windfall tax will just drive Shell abroad.
We should be applauding this example of a successful UK company rather than knocking it.
Neil, London, England
There MUST be a windfall tax. Lowering the prices of petrol would not encourage less use of petrol/cars for environmental reasons and these companies should have to help other causes instead of keeping the money. Most people are highly dependent on their cars and have no choice but to pay those inflated prices, so some good should be given back to the community as a whole.
Johanna Kaschke, London, UK