Friday, June 13, 2008

China and Cuba's oil

“Even the communists have figured out that a good answer to higher prices means more supply.”

That’s Vice President Cheney speaking earlier this week, joining a Republican chorus that argues, reasonably enough, that if we want lower gas prices we should produce more oil. We could begin by ending our own prohibitions on exploiting proven reserves in Alaska, off the Gulf coast, and elsewhere.

By “communists” he was referring to China and Cuba, claiming that China is drilling in Cuba’s Gulf waters. Not quite so. A Spanish-led consortium drilled in 2004, found oil but not in commercially viable quantities, and plans to drill again next year. No one else is drilling.

China is, however, involved in Cuban energy production, as shown in this photo of a rig on the coast east of Havana. (If someone can translate the Chinese sign, please do.)

From a Cuba policy perspective, what is interesting about the Republican discussion of Cuba’s Gulf oil strategy is that Cheney, the House Republican leaders, and others are not joining the calls from Florida legislators to stop Cuba from drilling. There are proposals to do that through new sanctions on foreign oil companies, or in Senator Nelson’s case, by ending American recognition of the U.S.-Cuba maritime border.

Instead, they are saying implicitly that it’s a reasonable strategy, it’s within Cuba’s sovereign rights, and we should imitate it.


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Anonymous said...

But seriously, I think the ultimate source of the confusion is that the Chinese rigs on the coast of Matanzas drill horizontally a few miles under the ocean, so that, technically, they are dilling in Gulf Waters, but from ON-shore rigs. Nowhere near Florida, though."

Mambi_Watch said...

Phil, thanks for reiterating the facts of this matter.

Also, thanks to the reporters from McClatchy for following up on the false comments by Vice President Cheney.

Lesley Clark is now reporting that Vice Pres. Cheney's office has issued a clarification:

"It is our understanding that, although Cuba has leased out exploration blocks 60 miles off the coast of southern Florida, which is closer than American firms are allowed to operate in that area, NO CHINESE FIRM IS DRILLING THERE."

It's unfortunate that high government officials can sometimes get away with misleading comments. As a consequence, the public continues to have a poor view of the facts, which also allows others to continue to mislead them.

One example comes from the Babalu Blog (Henry Louis Gomez) who yesterday wrote to his readers:

"The point is that drilling will be (IF IT'S NOT ALREADY HAPPENING) very close to Florida and yet our congress continues to keep American companies from exploring on our side of the very narrow Florida straits."

As many reports have suggested, the Cuban government has so far only allowed foreign nations to EXPLORE for oil around Cuba's waters.

Oil DRILLING still seems very far on the horizon for Cuba, but this reality does not help American lawmakers (or their supporters) to convince the public of taking drastic measures in solving our energy problem.

Anonymous said...

Exploration drilling is actually planned to begin on some of the blocks in 2009. However, once a viable source is found, it still takes another few years to start extracting it commercially.

Anonymous said...

I hope china gets on with the drilling, for the cuban people