Thursday, February 24, 2011

New study on Gulf oil: Embargo harms American interests

As Cuba extends its search for oil to the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. prohibitions on doing business with Cuba "pose needless risks to our national interest," the Center for Democracy in the Americas said Thursday in a new report (Download PDF).
The Washington, D.C.-based center said:
With Cuba and its foreign partners preparing to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. embargo prohibits American companies from joining Cuba in efforts to extract offshore resources, denies Cuba access to U.S. equipment for drilling and environmental protection, ties the U.S. government’s hands leaving it unable to plan adequately for a potential spill, and puts our coastal assets at great peril.

In 2010, the center led a delegation of energy and environmental experts on a visit to the island. The center's director, Sarah Stephens, said in a statement:
While finding oil in commercially viable amounts will be transformative for Cuba in the coming years, the challenges facing the U.S. begin as soon as the first drill bit penetrates the sea bed in the Gulf. After living through the BP spill, we can’t maintain the illusion that the embargo will stop Cuba from drilling and must instead adopt policies that protect U.S. economic, environmental, and foreign policy interests.
The center's report offers 10 changes to U.S. policy:
  1. Licensing: The Obama administration should aggressively and comprehensively use its licensing authority to ensure the right firms with the best equipment and expertise are in place to fight the effects of a potential spill.
  2. Enforcement: OFAC, the Treasury Department office that administers and enforces trade sanctions, should make it clear that efforts to protect drilling safety by U.S. entities will not face negative regulatory consequences.
  3. Information sharing: The U.S. should ensure that comprehensive information-sharing with Cuba’s government is standard, conducted openly where possible, and without impediments in areas such as granting visas for Cuban scientists and officials to visit the U.S.
  4. Bilateral relations: The U.S. should enter direct government-to-government discussions with Cuba on energy and environmental cooperation.
  5. Cooperation: The U.S. should look to existing models for bilateral (such as MEXUS) and trilateral cooperation (as proposed by the Presidential Commission on the BP Oil Spill).
  6. New authority: Legislation introduced last year by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) would allow U.S. firms to participate in oil exploration and effective crisis planning with Cuba.
  7. Cuba’s economy: U.S. policy should reflect that an economically stable Cuba best serves the U.S. national interest.
  8. Cuba’s energy mix: The U.S. should encourage Cuba to be energy independent in light of the strategic and political risks associated with Cuba’s continued dependence on foreign oil.
  9. Cuba in the region: The U.S. should welcome Cuba’s potential impact on the regional energy market.
  10. Cuba’s sovereignty: U.S. policy toward Cuba should no longer be predicated on Cuba failing.

No comments: