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U.S. Energy Chief Concerned About Venezuela Imports

Energy Secretary Bodman said he was concerned that supplies of oil from Venezuela could decline now that Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips have decided to exit major oil projects in the OPEC country.

U.S. oil giants Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips both left huge crude projects in Venezuela's Orinoco Belt after President Hugo Chavez nationalized them as part of his socialist revolution. Venezuela is the fourth biggest supplier of oil to the United States.

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"I'm concerned," Bodman told reporters. Asked if he was worried U.S. oil imports from Venezuela could be reduced with the companies leaving, Bodman said: "Sure, of course."

Energy experts have said Venezuela's oil production, already in decline, could fall further under the nationalization plans by reducing foreign investment and by reducing the pool of skilled energy workers.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said Venezuela needed to fairly compensate the oil companies that are hurt financially by the government takeover.

"While the government of Venezuela, like any other government, has the right to make these kinds of decisions to change ownership rules or other kinds of regulations, the standard has always been that we want to see them meet their international commitments in terms of providing fair and just compensation in accordance with international standards," department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.

As for Exxon and ConocoPhillips' plans to leave the relevant oil projects, Casey said those are "individual business decisions" being made by the companies.

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