China’s state-owned oil company Cnooc Ltd. announced last week that it was offering $15.1 billion to acquire Canadian oil company Nexen. Nexen owns oil and shale gas properties in Alberta and leases for offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the U.S. properties Nexen owns, U.S. regulators are likely to have some say in the transaction. Senator Charles Schumer argued that this leverage should be used to level the playing field by making it easier for U.S. companies to acquire companies in China. The deal is seen as a reflection of China’s growing global energy needs and some observers believe that it will be only the first in a wave of acquisitions by Chinese oil companies. The International Energy Agency forecasts that China may need net oil imports of 12 million barrels per day by the year 2035.
Three engineers for the Norte Energia Company, which is constructing the controversial Belo Monte dam in Brazil’s Amazon, were held last week by protesters from the Juruna and Arara tribes. The 11,233MW dam, which would be the third largest in the world, is being built on the Xingu River in Brazil. The engineers had met with tribal leaders to respond to their complaints about dislocations caused by the construction. The tribes apparently did not like what the engineers told them so they confined their visitors to the village in protest. Paulo Winterstein, Tribes Hold Engineers of Dam in Brazil, Wall St. J., July 26, 2012, at A8.
Anti-nuclear protests appear to be growing in Japan in the wake of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear accident, but they have yet to generate fundamental changes in Japanese politics. Yuka Hayashi & Toko Sekiguchi, Japan Antinuclear Movement Faces Tests in Poll, Rally, Wall St J., July 28-29, 2012, at A8. Tetsunari Iida, a former government employee running for provincial governor position was defeated on Sunday despite his pledge to scrap a nuclear power plant. His successful opponent, however, was forced to advocate “suspension” of operations for the time being in response to the antinuclear campaign. A group of retired engineers is pushing a plan to have remediation of the damaged reactors conducted by an independent team of older workers, claiming that Tokyo Electric has lost all credibility with its cleanup operations. Mure Dickie, Japan’s Veterans FIght to Relieve Young Workers of Nuclear Risk, FInancial Times, July 28-29, 2012, at 6.
A violent protest by residents of Qidong China has led the local government to abandon plans for a 70-mile sewage pipeline that would have discharged into the ocean near the city. A large crowd of protesters had stormed a local government building and overturned cars out of anger over the project that would have served a paper mill owned by a Japanese company. While such protests seem to be making more people confident that they can effect change in China, it would be preferable if ill-advised projects could be blocked by the decisions of an independent judiciary ruling on the merits, rather than as a political response to mob pressure.
Last Tuesday I gave a morning-long lecture to a group of nearly 20 Chinese judges who are in Vermont for part of a judicial training course run by Vermont Law School. The judges come from all parts of China and all levels of the Chinese judiciary. The group was very active in asking questions about the operation of the U.S. legal system. Next Sunday I will be returning to China on a field trip with some of the students from my Comparative China/U.S. Environmental Law course.