We've blamed everything from speculators, to a declining dollar, to pure old supply and demand for the run-up in crude prices to nearly $150 this summer. Now it turns out that the real culprits may have included the likes of Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin, and perhaps the Jamaican track team.

You see, as Forbes has just told us, Chinese companies PetroChina (NYSE:PTR) and China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. (NYSE:SNP) were under strict governmental orders not to permit any sort of fuel shortage during the Olympics. In part as a result, Chinese imports of crude oil jumped 11.0% during the first half of this year.

And the 960,000 tons of refined oil imports into China in June almost certainly constituted a propellant for the run-up in global crude prices as well. So now that the torch has been extinguished -- and allowing for a hurricane here or there -- perhaps prices will extend their decline.

At the same time, PetroChina has reported that its net profit for the first half of the year fell 34% from the period ended June 2007, with a severe loss in the refining segment being the primary culprit. So PetroChina has joined such occidental peers as ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) in watching its refinery margins become severely squeezed amid the global crude price hike. Prior to its release of earnings, PetroChina announced some M&A, by the way.

While there's a certain allure to investing in China, my strong inclination is to suggest that Fools merely watch PetroChina from the sidelines. The company's latest results are proof positive of the financial hits a company can take when its government takes too big an interest in its business.

Four-star PetroChina has more than 1,500 supporters among Motley Fool CAPS players. Are you included?

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith was transfixed by the Olympics, but isn't an owner of shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does welcome your comments. The Fool's disclosure policy is a gold medalist.