A majority of Canadians are already opposed to the takeover of Alberta’s Nexen by the Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC, and the latest news on that front is not likely to make many people change their mind.

A report Monday in the Financial Times highlighted a seemingly overlooked fact about CNOOC: That the company is working on a natural gas project in Iran, with whom Canada recently broke diplomatic relations, and that it sees at least some of its operations as being a “strategic weapon.”

CNOOC signed a $16-billion (U.S.) agreement with the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company in 2008 to develop the North Pars offshore natural gas field in Iran, one of the largest such fields in the world.

That move appeared to be political, coming “immediately after the U.S. agreed to sell arms to Taiwan,” FT reported.

That got the attention of NBC News' Rachel Maddow.

“So we agreed to sell arms to Taiwan. We did something that annoyed China, and China responded by saying, ‘Fine, we’ll have our giant state-owned oil company hook Iran up. How do you like us now?” Maddow quipped on her show Monday night.

That analysis may be open to debate. The U.S. announced a massive arms sale to Iran in October, 2008, weeks before the CNOOC deal with China was made public. However, the company had signed a memorandum of understanding on the North Pars oil field in 2006.

But recent comments by CNOOC’s chairman, Wang Yilin, would back up the suggestion that China uses its state-owned oil company to further geopolitical goals.

Wang told CNOOC employees earlier this year that "large-scale deep-water rigs are our mobile national territory and a strategic weapon," according to the Wall Street Journal.

“China is weaponizing its oil industry; at least that’s how they talk about it,” Maddow said.

Maddow was primarily concerned with another aspect of the CNOOC controversy — that U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney has invested in the company.

“Go ahead and invest my Mitt Romney bucks in the Chinese oil company that calls itself a weapon and does business with Iran just to spite us,” Maddow said, mocking Romney.

She also pointed out that, in 2005, CNOOC withdrew its bid to buy California-based oil company Unocal because of opposition in Washington; many policymakers believed the deal would pose a national security risk to the U.S. The deal likely would have been rejected by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

That bodes ill for CNOOC’s bid for Nexen, especially given that CFIUS has some jurisdiction over the proposed takeover, because Nexen operates deep-water drilling wells in U.S. territorial waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Maddow said.

The Nexen takeover is “probably not going to be OK with the United States,” she asserted.

The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has also indicated it may have national security concerns about the CNOOC-Nexen deal. In a report tabled in Parliament last week, the agency said some state-owned companies and private firms “with close ties to their home governments have pursued opaque agendas or received clandestine intelligence support for their pursuits here."

Added the report: "CSIS expects that national security concerns related to foreign investment in Canada will continue to materialize, owing to the increasingly prominent role that (state-owned enterprises) are playing in the economic strategies of some foreign governments."

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  • 10. Oil And Gas Accounts For 4.8 Per Cent Of GDP

    The oil and gas industries accounted for around $65 billion of economic activity in Canada annually in recent years, or slightly less than 5 per cent of GDP. Source: <a href="http://www.ceri.ca/docs/2010-10-05CERIOilandGasReport.pdf" target="_hplink">Canada Energy Research Institute</a>

  • 9. Oil Exports Have Grown Tenfold Since 1980

    Canada exported some 12,000 cubic metres of oil per day in 1980. By 2010, that number had grown to 112,000 cubic metres daily. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=9&SheetID=224" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 8. Refining Didn't Grow At All As Exports Boomed

    Canada refined 300,000 cubic metres daily in 1980; in 2010, that number was slightly down, to 291,000, even though exports of oil had grown tenfold in that time. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=7&SheetID=104" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 7. 97 Per Cent Of Oil Exports Go To The U.S.

    Despite talk by the federal government that it wants to open Asian markets to Canadian oil, the vast majority of exports still go to the United States -- 97 per cent as of 2009. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 6. Canada Has World's 2nd-Largest Proven Oil Reserves

    Canada's proven reserves of 175 billion barrels of oil -- the vast majority of it trapped in the oil sands -- is the second-largest oil stash in the world, after Saudi Arabia's 267 billion. Source: <a href="http://www.ogj.com/index.html" target="_hplink">Oil & Gas Journal</a>

  • 5. Two-Thirds Of Oil Sands Bitumen Goes To U.S.

    One-third of Canada's oil sands bitumen stays in the country, and is refined into gasoline, heating oil and diesel. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 4. Alberta Is Two-Thirds Of The Industry

    Despite its reputation as the undisputed centre of Canada's oil industry, Alberta accounts for only two-thirds of energy production. British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the second and third-largest producers. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 3. Alberta Will Reap $1.2 Trillion From Oil Sands

    Alberta' government <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/27/alberta-oil-sands-royalties-ceri_n_1382640.html" target="_hplink">will reap $1.2 trillion in royalties from the oil sands over the next 35 years</a>, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

  • 2. Canadian Oil Consumption Has Stayed Flat

    Thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and a weakening of the country's manufacturing base, oil consumption in Canada has had virtually no net change in 30 years. Consumption went from 287,000 cubic metres daily in 1980 to 260,000 cubic metres daily in 2010. Source: Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=6&SheetID=99" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 1. 250,000 Jobs.. Plus Many More?

    The National Energy Board says oil and gas employs 257,000 people in Canada, not including gas station employees. And the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the oil sands alone <a href="http://www.capp.ca/aboutUs/mediaCentre/NewsReleases/Pages/OilsandsaCanadianjobcreator.aspx" target="_hplink">will grow from 75,000 jobs to 905,000 jobs by 2035</a> -- assuming, of course, the price of oil holds up.


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  • 10. Encana

    Brand value: $418 million Photo: Doug Suttles, president and CEO of Encana Natural Gas (The Canadian Press) Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 9. Canadian Natural Resources

    Brand value: $702 million Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 8. Syncrude

    Brand value: $933 million Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 7. Suncor

    Brand value: $936 million Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 6. Cenovus

    Brand value: $1.109 billion Photo: Brian Ferguson, president and CEO of Cenovus Energy (The Canadian Press) Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 5. TransCanada

    Brand value: $1.47 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 4. Husky

    Brand value: $1.607 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 3. Petro-Canada

    Brand value: $1.831 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 2. Esso (Imperial Oil)

    Brand value: $1.849 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>

  • 1. Enbridge

    Brand value: $4.726 billion Source: <a href="http://www.brandfinance.com/offices/canada" target="_hplink">Brand Finance Canada</a>