Cuba could be drilling for oil off its shores for the first time, as soon as next year. Spanish company Repsol plans to drill exploratory wells in waters 5,600 feet deep about 22 miles off Havana.
Not surprisingly, American companies—still awaiting the BP blowout-inspired ban on offshore drilling to lift on November 30—want in. But the 1960s trade embargo with the communist state won’t allow it.
According to McClatchy Newspapers, any ship or rig comprised of more than 10 percent U.S. parts can’t operate in Cuba. (Repsol will use an Italian rig equipped with an American-made blowout preventer only.)
Cuba, like many Caribbean islands, currently relies heavily on oil imports from Venezuela.
After April’s Gulf spill, the government office that enforces foreign economic sanctions said licenses for American companies to aid Cuba’s offshore efforts could be granted in emergency situations.
To put it mildly, the sentiments surrounding this issue—offshore drilling, communism, environment, employment, economic sanctions, humanitarian efforts—run deep. But whatever the political implications, Cuba needs a rapid response spill plan before any drilling commences.
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Image: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC