Cuba to start oil drilling next month

admin | 11/2/2011, 8:53 a.m.

Critics say spill could cause irreparable harm

This December, exploratory oil drilling is set to begin off the coast of Cuba a mere 90 miles away from Floridas most southern point. Repsol oil company, based in Spain, will be doing the first round of offshore exploration. And while U.S. officials say they are focusing on making sure the drilling is done safely, Paul Schuler, president/CEO of Clean Caribbean and Americas (CCA), a Fort Lauderdale-based oil-spill response consortium funded by oil companies, admits that there are potential dangers connected to drilling. When you think about it, South Florida in about the same amount of danger as Louisiana is in the Gulf of Mexico, he said. If there were a blow out [oil spill] in Cuba, there could be a big problem. I think everyone is concerned about what could happen during drilling. When you have a disaster like what happened in the Gulf everyone is looking a little closer at what is going on. Schuler's organization, which responded to the 2010 BP (British Petroleum) spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has been involved in Cuba since 2001, when Repsol and Brazil's Petrobras first began working there. Jorge Pion, a former Amoco executive and a visiting research fellow with Florida International University's Latin American and Caribbean Centers Cuban Research Institute, warns that if a spill were to occur, politics could play a major roll in containing the situation. The danger that Florida faces is the lack of an oil spill agreement between the U.S. and Cuba, he said.Due to the embargo, the lack of access to U.S. equipment and supplies by international oil companies drilling in Cubain case of an accident, would hinder cleanup efforts. It seems to me that some South Florida politicians are more focused on keeping their South Florida Cuban constituency content, than safeguarding the economic survival of Florida's tourism industry which would impact all 19 million Florida residents. This past May, BP was held responsible for allowing close to 200,000 gallons of oil to contaminate the ocean as aresult of an explosion at an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. A recent estimate of the cost to clean upBPs oil spill was around $4 billion just slightly higher than the cost of rebuilding New Orleans and its environs after Hurricane Katrina. By Randy Gricergrice@miamitimesonline.com