Cuba’s ambition to drill has caused Florida to make way for offshore drilling by Spanish company Repsol just miles away from its shoreline. Cuba has signed lease agreements for offshore drilling blocks with six nations in the North Cuba Basin, a body of water within the Cuban Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that is believed to be at least 4.6 billion barrels rich in crude oil. Five of the six companies are owned by foreign countries: India, Venezuela, Malaysia, Vietnam and Angola. Repsol is the single private company and will drill one exploratory well about 55 to 60 miles south of Key West, Florida called the Jaguey Prospect in the North Cuba Basin. It owns a 40% share in the newest exploratory well, while partners India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp. and Norway’s Statoil each hold a 30% stake. Repsol has contracted the Italian-owned a mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) called Scarabeo-9 to drill the Jaguey well.
Although the U.S. has rigorous regulations to protect U.S. waters and hold violators responsible, if an oil release came from an offshore facility or MODU (when acting in its capacity as an offshore facility) located outside the U.S. EEZ, liability can tricky. The U.S. does not have the authority to impose this liability on entities operating outside U.S. territory. In the case of the Jaguey Prospect, the federal government would attempt to hold Repsol and its partners accountable if the spill was detrimental to U.S. waters or the U.S. EEZ, but there is no guarantee that they would accept full liability as the responsible party. The only power the U.S. has to guard against the possible spread of pollution to its waters is preparedness by the U.S. Coast Guard.
However, the powerlessness of the U.S. illustrated by this scenario is both unnecessary and ironic. In 2010, President Obama introduced a plan for drilling to take place 125 miles from Florida’s Gulf coastline. Only weeks later, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill occurred, changing the course of oil exploration with a moratorium on offshore drilling. Now Cuba, a country which we have cut nearly all relations with, is facilitating offshore drilling closer to U.S. borders than the U.S. allows itself to drill. This completely undoes the reason for offshore exploration latency. Since Cuba has invested in offshore drilling and has discovered abundant energy resources in such close proximity to the United States, we should take a lesson from Cuba rather than accuse them of possibly extracting oil from our territory. As the U.S. declines to pump oil offshore, Cuba is keeping the global price of oil down by producing the energy that the world needs. It is our own government’s passive energy policy that we should take issue with.