* Senators propose more drilling, pipeline approval
* Concerned about CNOOC-Nexen deal
* Stop short of saying U.S. government should block it
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, July 26 China's plan to gain a
bigger foothold in North American oil production shows the U.S.
government needs a more aggressive energy policy, a group of
influential Senate Republicans said on Thursday.
The senators said they were concerned about the bid by
China's state oil company CNOOC for the Canadian oil
company Nexen, but they stopped short of saying that
the U.S. government should try to do something to stop it.
"I have concerns about the deal, very definitely. I think it
has to be looked at carefully. I think I'll stop there for right
now," said Senator John Hoeven, when asked at a news conference
whether the U.S. government should intervene.
"But the real point is, we should be developing these
resources, not having the Chinese government acquiring them,"
said Hoeven, a North Dakota senator whose home state has become
the nation's second-largest oil producer.
"Do we really want to be buying our oil or Canadian oil back
from the Chinese? If we don't take action to develop our
resources and work with our closest friend and ally Canada,
that's exactly what's going to happen," Hoeven said.
Hoeven was joined by Senate Republican Leader Mitch
McConnell to unveil a package of energy proposals that would
allow for more drilling on government-owned land, reduce
regulations, streamline drilling permits, and approve the
Keystone XL pipeline carrying oil from Canada.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has
already passed many of the familiar proposals, which have
virtually no chance of being brought forward by the
But Senator John Cornyn, who heads the Senate Republican
Campaign Committee, said the proposal is "a very concrete
blueprint" for what would happen if Republicans gain power in
the White House and Senate in the Nov. 6 elections.
OBAMA KEYSTONE DELAY FAULTED
The senators blame President Barack Obama's delay in
approving TransCanada's pipeline for pushing Canada's
government to more aggressively explore oil deals with China.
Obama has said a portion of the pipeline going through
Nebraska needed more environmental review after the route was
adjusted to avoid an ecologically sensitive area.
The incident helped Canada see the need to advance its
economic relationship with China, Canada's former industry
minister said in an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail
newspaper on Thursday.
"While we were slow to realize it, a country that has only
one customer for its most valuable export is in constant peril,
even if that customer is your best friend. U.S. President Barack
Obama has reinforced just how significant that risk is," Jim
In buying Nexen, CNOOC will gain access to Canada's oilsands
as well as some holdings in the Gulf of Mexico.
"I'm concerned because it's really a trend, particularly in
the Gulf of Mexico," said Louisiana Senator David Vitter.
"I don't know enough about it to know whether it should be
blocked through any American, U.S.-based law. But I do think the
far better alternative is for us to play offense, and for us to
be developing, taking advantage of these energy resources,"
Vitter told Reuters.
Because of those holdings, the national security elements of
the China-Canada deal may be scrutinized by the powerful
Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
When CNOOC tried in 2005 to take over American oil company
Unocal, there was an immediate political backlash.
Republican Congressman Randy Forbes, who helped lead
congressional opposition to the failed Unocal bid, said he
doesn't like the CNOOC-Nexen bid, but feels he cannot do much
about it because it is a Canadian company.
"Whatever we would do would simply be talking in the wind,
because we don't have any legal authority to stop this action,"
Forbes said in an interview on Wednesday.