Hello, Washington: Anyone There?

Photo courtesy of FlickrAn April 5th Reuters report headlined HAVANA carried this message: “’Repsol YPF expects to have a Chinese-built drilling rig in Cuban waters by the end of the summer and start drilling immediately into a prospective undersea oil field that looks like it could be a big one,’ a geologist for the Spanish oil company said on Monday.”

The report went on to inform readers of this reality: “After Repsol finishes with the Scarabeo 9 [the drilling rig], which is capable of drilling in 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) of water, the rig will be handed over to Malaysia's Petronas to drill in its Cuban offshore leases, then to ONGC Videsh, which is a unit of ONGC, for its Cuba exploration. ‘Venezuela's PDVSA may also be in line to get the rig for its Cuban blocks, where areas of great potential have been found,’ PDVSA senior basin analyst Jose Noya told reporters at the conference.”

As indicated, Repsol is a Spanish company, working through a consortium including Norway, Italy, Singapore (where the drilling rig is being prepared for its long ocean transit) and others to drill for oil in waters just a short distance off the coast of Florida.

That the largest economy in the world is not involved, moreover that it is doing all it can to hinder the “consortium of the willing” through its draconian embargo on Cuba—and clearly failing to do so—defies the human imagination and begs for laments of ignorance, stupidity, and craven surrender to the tiny special interest group—the hardcore Cuban-American lobby—that has long since outlived any benefit to the United States it might have once offered.  In fact, that special interest group today constitutes a clear and present danger to the real security interests of the United States.

Though the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) continues to predict that Cuban waters will produce only some five billion barrels, other experts say differently—some going as high as 20 billion and more (and one wonders why all these various oil companies and their countries would be so determined to drill if the USGS forecasts are accurate?).  Moreover, these experts contend that the quality of the oil might well be as high as that of Texas light sweet crude or Libyan oil of similar characteristics, i.e., oil that is not heavily laden with sulphur or other elements that make it very difficult and costly to refine and limit its uses.  In short, if the 20B barrel estimates are correct and the quality of the oil turns out to be light and sweet, the U.S. will be missing out on a colossal resource development just off its coast at a time when the potential for $4-5 per gallon gasoline threatens to derail whatever economic recovery is underway.

This is insanity.  And we have not mentioned the potential environmental damage that could occur were one of these deep water Cuban wells to have a catastrophic accident such as BP recently experienced with its Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and well.  One of the greatest areas of biodiversity left in North America is along the Florida coast where existing currents would likely carry the results of such a disaster.

Former President Carter’s recent visit to Cuba and subsequent remarks about how the U.S. should change its policies toward that island have reopened the overall debate about U.S.-Cuba relations and, particularly, about U.S. policy.  This is a welcome and healthy development because that policy is seriously flawed and, as a result, is not helping the Cuban people.  It is in fact hurting them.  But we all know that changing U.S. policy in the wholesale way that Carter recommends is probably a long way in the future.

On the other hand, drilling for oil off the coast of Florida, in multiple Cuban sectors, will begin this summer or early fall.

Isn’t there anyone in the White House paying attention?

- Lawrence Wilkerson

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/ L.C. Nøttaasen; http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnera/3755006104/sizes/l/in/photostream/

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