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House Republicans: China is drilling off Cuba; UM expert, Oh no they're not

With gas topping $4 a gallon, it comes as no surprise that some members of Congress are looking to open up new areas to drill -- including the Outer Continental Shelf.

Pro-drilling Rep. John Peterson, R-Penn., tomorrow plans to ask a House subcommittee to lift a prohibition on gas and oil exploration from 50 to 200 miles offshore. In hopes of making their case, House Republicans today shopped around an Investor's Business Daily editorial claiming that while the US coastline is off-limits, "China and Cuba drill 60 miles from Key West, Fla."


Not so fast, says Jorge Pinon, an energy fellow with the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami. First, China doesn't hold any offshore oil concessions in Cuba. And though the island nation has partnered with a number of nations proficient in deep water drilling, there's not been any action since June 2004 because the deep water drilling equipment is needed elsewhere, Pinon says. And some of the companies have expressed reservations about how to turn the potential crude into product: Cuba doesn't have the refinery capacity and the Cuban embargo prohibits it from coming to the U.S.

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service reported in February that "while there has been some concern about China's potential involvement in offshore deepwater oil projects, to date its involvement in Cuba's oil sector has been focused on onshore oil extraction in Pinar del Rio province through its state-run China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation."


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Jorge R. Pinon

As a Floridian I support Senators Nelson and Martinez efforts in protecting Florida's fragile ecosystems and environment. As a former oil industry executive I also agree with Senators Nelson and Martinez that the oil industry is inherently dangerous and risky.

Where we differ is in that the oil industry has learned over the years how to manage successfully the risks associated with deepwater exploration and production. Hurricanes Ivan, Wilma, Rita and Katrina are proof of this…you can find all the facts and figures by visiting the U.S. Department of the Interior Mineral Management Services web site http://www.mms.gov Please note that I have said “manage risk”, I did not said to eliminate the risk.

Marine transportation of petroleum has a much higher probability of a catastrophic environmental oil spill as a result of an accident, than deepwater oil exploration and production. The Exxon Valdez, Amoco Cadiz, The Prestige and many others are examples of such regretful and damaging incidents in our industry’s history.

We are not aware of any catastrophic incident in deep water exploration; but I will like to remind everyone of the collision between the Ocean 225 and the Balsa 37 in Tampa Bay on August 10, 1993. This is Florida’s worst marine oil spill disaster.

If we really want to safeguard our coastlines we should concentrate on our ports…Tampa, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and Jacksonville which handle one hundred percent of Florida’s petroleum needs. How about Venezuela’s BORCO oil terminal located in Freeport, Bahamas? Just 80 miles from Ft. Lauderdale is one of the largest oil terminals in the world with over 20 million barrels of storage…are we sure that its traffic is with doubled hauled tankers? I would hate to see the impact in Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Jupiter, and Hobe Sound and along the coast if we ever have an incident at BORCO.

And finally, please do not use Cuba, China, Venezuela et al as scare tactics to debate a very important subject which is our State’s pristine beaches and coastlines.


What some seem to forget is that the protection of an environment is conditional on a successful economy/society. If and when control is lost due to catastophic economic conditions, the essence of a clean environment is lost as well. An idylic scene of flowers and people sharing a perfect world with no carbon impact is contrary to the history of the human animal. And, I question whether any scare tactic has been quite as common as the idea that we are destroying the world. This earth has survived fire and ice, it will, in fact, survive us.

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