Cuba to drill 50 miles from Florida coast

NY Times:

Five months after the BP oil spill, a federal moratorium still prohibits new deepwater drilling in the American waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And under longstanding federal law, drilling is also banned near the coast of Florida.

Yet next year, a Spanish company will begin drilling new wells 50 miles from the Florida Keys — in Cuba’s sovereign waters.

Cuba currently produces little oil. But oil experts say the country might have reserves along its north coast as plentiful as that of the international oil middleweights, Ecuador and Colombia — enough to bolster its faltering economy and cut its dependence on Venezuela for its energy needs.

The advent of drilling in Cuban waters poses risks to both the island nation and the United States.

Ocean scientists warn that a well blowout similar to the BP disaster could send oil spewing onto Cuban beaches and then the Florida Keys in as little as three days. If the oil reached the Gulf Stream, a powerful ocean current that passes through the region, oil could flow up the coast to Miami and beyond.

The Cubans are far less prepared to handle a major spill than the Americans were in the BP accident. Cuba has neither the submarine robots needed to fix deepwater rig equipment nor the platforms available to begin drilling relief wells on short notice.

And marshaling help from American oil companies to fight a Cuban spill would be greatly complicated by the trade embargo on Cuba imposed by the United States government 48 years ago, according to industry officials. Under that embargo, American companies face severe restrictions on the business they can conduct with Cuba.

The prospect of an accident is emboldening American drilling companies, backed by some critics of the embargo, to seek permission from the United States government to participate in Cuba’s nascent industry, even if only to protect against an accident.

...

Right now, Cuba’s oil industry is served almost exclusively by non-American companies. Repsol, a Spanish oil company, has contracted with an Italian operator to build a rig in China that is scheduled to begin drilling several deepwater test wells next year. Other companies, from Norway, India, Malaysia, Venezuela, Vietnam and Brazil, have taken exploration leases.

New Mexico’s governor, Bill Richardson, a Democrat who regularly visits Cuba, said Cuba’s offshore drilling plans are a “potential inroad” for loosening the embargo. During a recent humanitarian trip to Cuba, he said, he bumped into a number of American drilling contractors — “all Republicans who could eventually convince the Congress to make the embargo flexible in this area of oil spills.”

...
There is more.

I would be surprised if this administration permitted the drilling because it would make their own moratorium look pretty foolish, which it is. It has been a terrible idea from the beginning and it is looking worse every passing day and bureaucrats try to thank up new ways to thwart drilling once the embargo is lifted. It has become an important part of this administration's anti energy policy.

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