A New Tax on Oil Companies

This report has been doing the rounds of the oil and gas journals, but is strangely absent from the mainstream media:


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will propose a new tax on oil companies when heads of state gather at the G20 summit next month, our London correspondent has learned from a leaked report.

The proposal would see tax on oil production replaced by a tax on each email generated by oil companies in a move which could raise over 1 trillion USD for depleted global treasuries.  Critics see the move as counterproductive at a time when so many emails are being generated and said it would almost certainly lead to resignations from middle managers who are already under pressure to change their ways following the collapse of the oil price.  However, an aide to Gordon Brown said this in an exclusive interview with our correspondent under condition of anonymity:

“The move is entirely reasonable and in line with the changes already underway in the oil and gas industry.  Oil companies have moved away from their traditional role of extracting hydrocarbons and on most measures their primary business is now generating emails.  It is only natural that the respective tax laws be changed to recognise this fact, and it is unacceptable that oil companies continue to produce so many emails without being subject to tax.”

A report carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that oil companies sent a total of 3.7bn emails in 2008, over 90% of which were internal, and most of no use whatsoever.  The report also revealed that more than three in five emails were lazily forwarded unnecessarily, and over half included people who were irrelevant to the information therein, which is being used by some green groups as proof that oil companies are not serious about environmental protection.


Greenpeace activist Chloe Nosoape said on the organisation’s website that the report “is a clear indication that the oil companies are irresponsible in their use of scarce resources.  Email use has been growing exponentially each year since 1992, and 2008 saw more emails sent than any other year in history, which is simply not sustainable.  The new tax would encourage oil companies to behave more responsibly and give something back to the online communities they are working amongst.” 

Other environmental groups see excessive email use as a major cause of global warming, with still others accusing oil companies of dumping unread emails in the sea which they say is having a serious effect on the breeding patterns of the Pacific Grey Whale.

However, managers in the oil industry are sceptical of the move labelling it a “naked tax grab in an area where we are most vulnerable”, and are concerned about the effect the new tax will have on their operations.  One of the HR Directors of a major oil company interviewed by us said:

“We have spent years encouraging our workforce to send emails to each other rather than dealing face-to-face.  We believe that sending internal emails is a cheaper and more efficient alternative to employing people who have a pleasant personality and are not arrogant tossers.”

Faced with a recruitment crisis across the whole industry as science and engineering graduates shun the oil business in favour of work which does not require flame-retardent coveralls, oil companies have in recent years retreated from the traditional requirement that employees must have an ability to contribute something useful and now simply require that they harbour unshakeable self-importance.  As such, email use in the industry has increased more than in other comparable industries, such as mining which still requires people to actually do something occasionally.  One HSE Manager working for a large oil company told us:

“How can I be expected to go and see people to discuss important matters?  I joined the HSE department because I was universally loathed by everyone I’ve ever come into contact with, and by using email and copying in the higher management each time I could get people to do what was necessary.  I am not sure that communicating directly with people is something we should be encouraging in today’s world.”

A mechanical engineer working in the same company concurs:

“I cannot possibly make a decision until everybody I can think of has had an opportunity to give me their opinion on the situation.  Sometimes this amounts to over 40 different people.  It is simply not practical for me to go around and speak to these people individually.”

**** himself

Reaction to the news from oil company executives has been mixed, with one CEO allegedly screaming “well if Gordon Brown doesn’t want us to invest in the UK then he can go **** himself”, whereas the board of another international oil company has reportedly said that they favoured dialogue and were happy for tax officials to help themselves to whatever they thought was fair in the hope of favourable treatment in the future.  However, it appears that some oil companies are taking the proposal seriously and have already started implementing procedures with the aim of reducing email usage.  One operations manager said he would be encouraging his employees to make decisions all on their own, to stop trying to brown-nose senior management by copying them on every email which makes them look good, and to ban the use of the reply-all button.

However, not all oil workers are against the proposal.  When our correspondent visited the Association of Geriatrics in the Oil Industry, he found the mood quite upbeat:

“This is excellent news!  For too long we have been required to use email for our correspondence, and this is discrimination against those of us who do not know how to use it.  I am 69 years old, and I have no idea how to switch on a computer, never mind send emails,” said one gentleman, whose 22 year old Thai wife seemed more than proficient on her iPhone.  Another told us:

“When I worked on the Claymore hookup in 1962 we didn’t have email and that was a proper job.  These young people in the business now have no clue, and when we’re all gone the industry will fall apart.”

Asked whether the proposed law could be extended to unnecessarily long meetings, bizarre policies and procedures, and cringeingly bad safety posters, a treasury spokesperson declined to comment.


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