China spending billions on oil

Beijing, February 5:

Days before a Chinese firm announced a $2.3 billion investment in a Nigerian oil field last month, president Hu Jintao warned that China has to rein in surging energy use that has made it o-ne of the world’s biggest oil importers.

China must create an “energy-efficient, environmentally friendly society,” Hu said in a New Year’s Day speech at a Communist Party reception, according to state media. The twin announcements highlight the dual tracks of Beijing’s energy policy as it tries to secure foreign oil and gas to fuel sizzling economic growth of more than nine per cent a year while struggling to limit its soaring reliance on them by increasing use of nuclear and hydroelectric power.

Of course, China is not alone in this predicament — witness US president George W Bush’s plea to cut America’s dependence on Mideast oil. But the voracious appetite for energy by China and other nations with fast developing economies, notably neighbour India, also is one factor propelling the upward trend in oil prices.

And some of China’s energy deals are causing bumps on the world’s political landscape. Its investments in Iran and Sudan have prompted complaints it is abetting pariah nations, and Chinese pursuit of deals in Canada and other US allies have been met with unease in Washington.

Last year, China’s state-controlled CNOOC Ltd gave up an $18.5 billion takeover bid for Los Angeles-based Unocal Corp after critics complained. The energy buying spree has taken Chinese firms as far afield as Venezuela and Australia. In the past six months, these companies have signed deals totalling $7 billion for stakes in oil fields in Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Syria.