There’s a dark liquid of Cuban extraction keeping the island’s diaspora up at night lately, and it’s not Little Havana’s famous cortaditos, writes Marce Gutierrez. It’s oil. Cuban oil.
Enter the “Cuban Oil Crisis”, a.k.a. the Castro regime’s plans to prospect or – to be more crude – “drill baby, drill” for oil inside Cuban territorial waters. Said proposed site would be located 50 miles from the Florida Keys. The proposed exploration is a multinational venture: the $750 million dollar Norwegian-designed-Chinese-built rig – dubbed Scarabeo 9 – features a US blowout preventer (coincidentally, it was a blowout preventer failure that caused the BP oil spill) and will initially be operated by Spanish company Repsol. Other companies from Norway, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Venezuela and Brazil have already taken exploration leases.
While there is technically only one US manufactured part on the rig, American involvement runs deep despite the 49 year embargo. The Scarabeo 9 — slated to arrive in the Caribbean before the end of 2011 — will be inspected by the Coast Guard and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement in Trinidad and Tobago before going into operation in Cuba. And in the wake of last year’s oil spill, The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security has already issued licenses to U.S. companies for oil spill containment in Cuban waters.
Repsol’s collaborative efforts have done nothing to placate Cuban-American and Floridian legislators, who have thus far tried to derail or limit the proposed drilling through sign-on letters and legislation. A bipartisan letter signed by 34 members of Congress sent to Repsol’s chairman argues said drilling poses potential threats to both the environment and democracy.
Anti-Castro lobbyists would like to prevent a potential new revenue source – a “lifeline” for the regime.
As a marine conservation advocate, I’m deeply skeptical of some of the opposition’s environmental concerns. While some, like Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), have pursued alternate legislative measures to regulate and de-subsidize major oil companies in the past, others like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) have a prominent record of catering to oil companies by supporting proposals that reverse offshore drilling moratoriums and oppose efforts to kill drilling subsidies.
Do they only care about potential oil spill threats if it reports earnings to those on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum? Did the capitalist BP oil spill somehow magically not affect the Gulf’s health and economy?
In the end, all oil spills pose a grave ecological threat to the gulf ecosystem and the communities that depend on it. This hypocritical double standard on drilling only benefits the established US oil industry, the same one that took five months to contain the Macondo BP disaster last year and tried to plug said spill by plugging the underwater well with golf balls. I would like to see Congressional opponents to Cuba’s drilling project put domestic efforts under the same magnifying glass, instead of acting as corporate enablers. Given recent domestic oil spills, it is downright puzzling to see Members of Congress preoccupying themselves with a foreign country’s potential environmental threat while at the same time acting as apologists for domestic disasters.
In the meantime, we can only aspire to a day when legislators stop politicizing public and ecosystem health.
Marce Gutierrez is the founder of Azul, an environmental project focused on building a Latino constituency and leadership on marine and coastal conservation issues.
For the original report go to http://politic365.com/2011/11/28/cubas-new-dark-brew/