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China is the best example of this competition. The country’s state-owned energy companies are securing ever larger deals at a quickening pace. A listing of their successful acquisitions last year is indeed impressive.
American energy firms have no such support. Couple that with the fact that roughly 88 percent of remaining proven oil reserves is owned by foreign governments and you get a very difficult environment in which for American businesses to succeed.
Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie says diesel, gasoline and gasoil demand in China is rising about 8% annually. China’s appetite for oil won’t peak until 2025, according to UBS.
To meet that demand, China’s biggest energy companies have gone on a buying spree. Last year was a record year for China’s oil and gas acquisitions, with $24.3 billion in deals, up from $17.1 billion in 2009, according to data provider Dealogic.
“Who is going to buy? I posit the Chinese will acquire significant stakes in the Gulf of Mexico in the next 12 to 24 months,” said Peter O’Malley, head of resources and energy for Asia Pacific at HSBC.
State energy giant Cnooc already has bought small stakes in deep-water projects in the Gulf owned by Norway’s Statoil.
Given that three-quarters of the world’s exploration and production companies are headquartered in North America, the Chinese are likely to bid for U.S. companies, bankers said.
“All the Chinese majors will be in North America in the next two years,” O’Malley said.
Contrast the rhetoric of the White House’s hope for clean energy with the aggressive expansion of all forms of energy on the part of the Chinese. While Western politicians remain narrowly focused on “green” policies, China is on the hunt, bagging valuable oil and gas resources around the world and strengthening their energy security through a massive investment in the traditional energy reserves. Sure, they’re spending big on clean energy as well, but the Chinese view this much less as an issue of moral imperative, and much more as an issue of cementing a robust and secure energy profile to fuel its continually exploding economy.
Green energy is desirable, but try telling China to limit its consumption, production, and acquisition of traditional oil, gas, and coal resources and see how far you get. Soon, reality will alter America’s energy posture. As China’s economy continues to grow and the United States’ demand for fossil resources lingers (and it will linger) competition between China and the U.S. for the same world oil resources will evolve into the defining geopolitical challenge of at least the next two decades.