NEW YORK TIMES: BAGHDAD — Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power. Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production. There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. MORE

exxon_donut_man_1.jpgRELATED: How Addicted To Oil Money Is Your Congressman?
RELATED: “America is addicted to oil…” — George Bush, State Of The Union Address 2006
RELATED: President Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to end a federal ban on offshore oil drilling and open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration, asserting that those steps and others would lower gasoline prices and “strengthen our national security.”The president’s move to end the ban on offshore drilling reverses his longstanding position on the issue. Together with the other proposals he laid out on Wednesday, it underscores how $4-a-gallon gas has become a major issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. A growing number of Republicans are lining up in opposition to the federal ban. The party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, used a speech in Houston on Tuesday to say he now favors offshore drilling, an announcement that infuriated environmentalists who had long viewed him as an ally. Florida’s Republican governor, Charlie Crist, immediately joined Mr. McCain, saying that he, too, now wants an end to the ban. MORE

FACT CHECK: According to President Bush, John McCain, and Charlie Crist, if we just start drilling for oil off the coast of Florida, gas prices will fall and our lives will all improve. Listening to the three of them this week has been a lesson in how to deflect attention from the real problems facing this country. The notion that as a country we canexxonoilybird_1.jpg drill our way out of the energy crisis or that by drilling off Florida’s coast or in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWAR), we can end our dependence on foreign oil is just patently false. The United States sits on three percent of the world’s oil supply but we consume 25 percent of the world’s oil. And the fact that it would take seven to ten years for any oil to be produced from those offshore wells, and that it will have no impact on the current price of gasoline, has been all but lost…MORE

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