Embargo Could Prevent Spill Containment if Cuban Oil Drilling Goes Wrong

Cuba plans to drill for oil just 80 miles from Florida's coast -- but there are political obstacles with plans to protect our coast in case of a spill

By Jeff Burnside
|  Thursday, Apr 12, 2012  |  Updated 4:30 PM EDT
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By mid-December, Cuba plans to be drilling for oil just 80 miles from Florida's coast -- but there are political obstacles with plans to protect our coast in case of a spill.

By mid-December, Cuba plans to be drilling for oil just 80 miles from Florida's coast -- but there are political obstacles with plans to protect our coast in case of a spill.

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By mid-December, Cuba plans to be drililng for oil just 80 miles from the Florida coast. In fact, an Italian-built driling rig is now in the water, ready to start five exploratory wells.

But because of the Cuban embargo, drilling in the communist nation's waters is being done by foreign oil companies. Cuban officials say they'll adhere to the highest safety standards, but the embargo may prevent the U.S. from cooperating with Cuba in sharing safety equipment and technology that would contain or prevent a spill.

However tough things went with BP during the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico, imagine dealing with Raul and Fidel Castro. Strong currents would take a spill directly to the Keys, toward Miami, and up the Florida east coast.

Cuba expert Jorge Pinion, a former oil exec, said the U.S. must protect its shorelines.

"The US and Cuba need to sit down together and put together a coordination or a protocol on the management of a future oil spill. The US already has that with Mexico and Canada. So why not with Cuba?" he asked.

One reason is that South Florida's Cuban-American congressional delegation opposes an exemption to the 50-year-old Cuban embargo, even if it protects the coast in case of spill.

"Nobody's asking for a lifting of the embargo," Pinion argues. "All that we're asking is that in the case of a national emergency, intl oil compannies operating in Cuba can quickly access this technology and equipment that will safeguard our share environment, and most importantly, it will save our economy and our tourism."

Americans, meanwhile, continue to oppose oil drilling close to Florida. If the Cuban exploratory wells find oil, Pinion says it will ratchet up pressure on U.S. lawmakers to finally permit drilling near Sunshine State shores. 

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