Cuba Set To Oil Drill Just 50 Miles Off U.S. Coastline

Tough, new U.S. drilling regs will have no effect over Cuba's plans

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News out of Cuba and the U.S., today, combine to create an interesting dilemma over the future of deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Prodded by the disastrous BP oil spill, our country’s Department of Interior today issued new regulations designed to force oil companies to operate under much more stringent requirements than BP was operating under when it’s well blew out last April, leading to the worst spill in U.S. history. BP, whose well was 40 miles off the U.S. coastline, had no workable plan to handle such a spill, and its blowout prevention device failed. 

But, no matter how strict the U.S. gets, it has no power over drilling plans just announced by Cuba – in deepwater only 50 miles off the Florida keys in Cuban waters.

Cuban government officials and a Spanish oil company said they plan to start exploiting what could be signficant oil reserves as a boost to the island’s economy and to lessen its dependence on Venezuelan oil. But, Cuba is poorly equipped to handle a big spill, which could start smearing U.S. coastal beaches within three days by hitching a ride on the Gulf Stream up the Atlantic sea board.

U.S. oil companies are using the news as an opportunity to try loosening the trade embargo with Cuba. They are trying to convince the U.S. government that it’s better for Cuba to have our advanced oil drilling techniques than to risk another oil well disaster linked to antiquated technology. Obviously, there is an economic incentive in this for U.S. industry.

Meanwhile, Cuba is pushing forward with plans to start drilling – in deepwater – sometime next year.

From 2006–2014, Terry was managing editor for Earthjustice's blog, online monthly newsletter and print Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.