So says the Financial Times:

CNOOC critics received Chevron donations

Washington lawmakers who have expressed opposition to China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s $18.5bn bid for Unocal, the California energy company, have received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from Chevron since 2002, according to publicly available filings.

It has raised questions over whether Chevron is drumming up a campaign of opposition to the deal. A person close to CNOOC charged that Chevron was using its political clout in Washington to try to increase uncertainty over the high CNOOC bid for Unocal.

“Chevron does not want to do the math, that $67 per share is higher than $60 per share. It is cheaper for Chevron to raise political uncertainty than it is for them to raise their bid,” the person said.

Richard Pombo, the Republican congressman from California who sent a letter to President George W. Bush raising concerns about the deal days before a bid by CNOOC was announced, has received $13,500 from the Chevron over the last three years, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

That was followed by a similar letter signed by 41 House Republicans and Democrats, of which 22 had received political contributions from Chevron in the past three election cycles. Joe Barton, the powerful Republican chairman of the House energy committee, on Tuesday became the first lawmaker to urge Mr Bush to block the takeover bid rather than simply reviewing its national security implications. Mr Barton was the second largest congressional recipient of oil and gas money in the 2004 elections, taking in more than $224,000. Chevron’s contribution to his campaign was $6,500.

This effectively means that it becomes impossible to know if these reps actually believe the arguments they are giving, or if they are just justifying their donations viz. Chevron. For Chevron, it certainly makes sense to bring political factors in the game (it’s a lot cheaper for them), and it is logical for them to expect this to be payback time for all their donations:

Chevron was the fifth largest oil and gas contributor to congressional candidates for the 2004 election, offering up nearly $500,000, and has consistently been among the top five contributors in recent election cycles. Since 1990, it has given nearly $9m to federal candidates.

But who will express the legitimate national interests of the USA in this story? Can the congressmen be trusted to do so? Can anyone else?

Personally, I think that the sale should go ahead. The guy with the most money gets the oil, irrespective of the nationality of the oil producer or of the oil company. Chinese ownership of Unocal will not prevent their oil form being sold on the international oil markets, one of the most liquid markets in the world, and it will not make it possible for US oil production or refining capacity to be shipped to China against US’s wishes. It’s just not possible.

But the question should be raised, and the relationship between China and the USA in the energy sector in general and oil in particular should certainly be discussed publicly – and by representatives unbiased by corporate money.

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