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The government and major companies will start helping China save energy when a bilateral ministerial forum kicks off in Tokyo next month to debate environmental technologies, according to sources.

The forum may open new doors for Japan to sell China cutting-edge conservation technologies it has developed by reducing energy consumption 30 percent since the 1970s oil crises, the sources said.

Japan hopes to mitigate the adverse effects of China’s rapid economic development, especially the soaring cost of crude oil.

The support is also expected to promote bilateral cooperation in energy in the future, including Japan’s procurement of crude oil and petroleum products from China.

But the energy-saving forum comes at a time Japan and China are arguing over drilling rights for gas fields in the East China Sea.

Nevertheless, major Japanese and Chinese companies will participate in the tow-day bilateral ministerial forum on May 29 and 30. Nippon Steel Corp. and Taiheiyo Cement Corp. will be among the participants.

The forum will hold subcommittee sessions for separate industrial sectors to discuss environment-related technologies suitable for Chinese needs.

For example, efficient coal-fired power generation, energy-saving technologies for steel and chemical plants, denitrification equipment and new energy sources, including solar cells and wind power, will be among issues to be taken up.

Participants will also discuss legal and other systems to promote energy saving, including tax breaks for fuel-efficient hybrid cars.

China’s rapid economic growth has caused a roughly 50 percent increase in the consumption of oil and electricity over the past decade.

China has asked for Japan’s help in achieving energy reductions of 20 percent per unit of gross domestic product by 2010 under its 11th five-year plan for national economic and social development.

Mitsui buys into Pogo

Mitsui & Co. said Friday the Mitsui group will buy a 50 percent stake in Texas-based Pogo Producing Co.’s oil and natural gas leasehold interests in the Gulf of Mexico.

The $500 million deal will mark the trading house’s first acquisition of oil and gas concessions in the United States, which Mitsui believes will serve as a useful lever to push into the North American oil and gas market, which is the world’s largest.

The U.S. company said the transaction is expected to close in June.

The purchase, to be made jointly by Mitsui, Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.) Inc. and Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., will grant the Mitsui group rights to a maximum of 85 mining sites with estimated reserves of 24 million barrels of oil and gas.

Production in more than half of the 85 drilling areas is already under way, Mitsui said.