As Cuba prepares to begin drilling for oil off its shores, Florida lawmakers are rushing to block it, stating that an oil spill would severely damage the state’s beaches.
Legislation has been introduced by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota), that if approved, would allow the U.S. Interior Department to deny companies associated with Cuba’s oil drilling any U.S. oil or gas leases. And Senator Bill Nelson plans to re-introduce a measure that would revoke the U.S. visas for the executives of those companies.
Buchanan has been against drilling along Florida’s coast for some time and claims that Cuba just does not have the expertise to contain and clean an oil spill.
“We have no drilling 230 miles off our coast,’’ Buchanan said, referring to current U.S. law that keeps rigs at least 230 miles from the coast of Tampa Bay. “So why in the world would we want Cuba drilling within 50 miles?’‘
Senior fellow at The Ocean Foundation in Washington, David Guggenheim, has been working with Cuba on research and conservation for more than a decade, and believes that instead of trying to shut down Cuba’s offshore operations the U.S. should work on developing an emergency response agreement with Cuba.
Jorge Piñon, an energy expert and visiting research fellow at the Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute said shutting down Cuba’s operation could hurt the U.S.’s relationships with Brazil and Norway and anyone else interested in Cuba, forcing an “us or them” type of scenario.
Working with Cuba is Spanish energy plant Repsol. Sen. Nelson is hoping to meet with them to discuss their position on Cuba’s offshore drilling. Previously, Repsol “scrapped” its plans to build a plant in Iran amid to U.S. pressure.
Some believe Cuba is only flaunting their oil reserves in an attempt to have the decades-long embargo lifted.
Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the U.S. Cuba Democracy political action committee – a leading pro-embargo lobby – expressed, “This is part of a decade-long propaganda campaign by the regime in order to secure the oil industry’s support for joining the lobby against the embargo. We’ve been through this before. It’s the little boy who cried wolf.”