Business, Economics and Jobs

China the biggest investor in Iraq's emerging oil sector (VIDEO)


Oil in Iraq. Yeah, it's complicated.


Essam Al-Sudani

China is buying most of Iraq's oil, taking some 1.5 million barrels from the country per day and positioning for even more, according to The New York Times.

Iraq is home to some of the world's largest known oil reserves, and China is angling for a major stake in the nation's fledging oil industry. 

“The Chinese are the biggest beneficiary of this post-Saddam oil boom in Iraq,” National Defense University's Denise Natali, a regional expert, told The Times. “They need energy, and they want to get into the market.”

US political satirist Jon Stewart could not believe this. Poking fun at accusations that the United States really invaded Iraqi in 2003 to get its oil, a flippant Stewart asked: "Don't You Have To Be In A War To Win It?"

Watch it here: 

CNN Money was quick to point out a silver lining for Americans, however. "The fact so much of this investment is coming from China isn't necessarily bad, which the [New York Times'] story acknowledged but did not dwell on," wrote CNN Money's Steve Hargreaves.

How's that? Well, more oil pumping going on in Iraq translates to lower oil and gas prices because it's a global commodity. "If the Chinese want to gulp more oil, it's high time that Sinopec (SPH) and other big Chinese energy companies spend the money and take the risks of getting the stuff out of the ground," according to Hargreaves

Foreign oil companies have been challenged working in Iraq due to security concerns, high fees, corruption, and infrastructure problems. So if China wants to go for it, Hargreaves observed, "all the power to them."

Not everyone's so enthusiastic about this. For example, Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration. "We lost out," he told The Times. “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefiting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply.”

China's National Petroleum Corporation last year offered to take a 60 percent stake in Iraq's massive West Qurna I oil, while The Times said Exxon Mobil may bow out there in order to pursue work in Iraqi Kurdistan. 

Speaking of Kurdistan, another oil-rich area, Baghdad is finding it increasingly difficult to come to an agreement on resource-sharing with its independence-minded territory, a conflict that continually threatens to completely derail the oil industry there.