Senator Nelson has one more idea regarding Cuba’s future oil development: He has written Secretary Clinton to ask her to ask the Spanish government to lean on Repsol to try to stop it.
His request to Secretary Clinton is based on his view that Cuban offshore oil exploration is “contrary to U.S. interests in the hemisphere.” That’s debatable.
It is also based on an expectation that Spain’s center-right Partido Popular will win national elections next March (quite possible) and, once in office, try to stop Repsol’s Cuba venture (forget it). The PP differs with Spain’s socialists on aspects of Cuba policy, but the differences have never extended to trade, investment, or travel policy – where Spain, like all our European allies, has no restrictions at all. The PP is hardly likely to lean on a Spanish company and its employees and shareholders – if indeed it has the legal means to do so – to walk away from a project with hundreds of millions of dollars in sunk costs, least of all at the public behest of the U.S. government. Senator Nelson’s effort, however implausible, will please some of his constituents.
But recognizing the long odds involved, Senator Nelson has a “safety net” that deals with the issues that will actually come into play. It’s a smart bill he introduced to encourage the Administration to talk with Cuba, together with Mexico and the Bahamas, to form real contingency plans.
As things stand now, when drilling begins or when an accident occurs, people will ask whether American resources and technology, the closest to the scene, are available. Most members of the Florida delegation will be able to cite an anti-Castro speech they made, or a threat of sanctions against Repsol.
Only Senator Nelson will be able to say he took practical action to mitigate risk or damage in the interest of protecting the U.S. coastal environment, in Florida and beyond. We’ll see if the executive branch follows suit.
Here’s a video report from Energy Now on these issues centered on last week’s Trinidad conference, beginning at 2:30 with discussion later in the program.