U.S. and Cuba Must Share Stewardship in the Gulf


(Photo Credit: Deepwater Horizon Response photostream)

This guest post, which originally appeared at
The Havana Note, is a guest note by Tom Garofalo, a consultant for the New America Foundation/U.S-Cuba Policy Initiative.
The blame for the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is now flowing almost as freely as the oil, and even after a month, the full extent of the Deepwater Horizon disaster won’t be known for some time. The explosion and the futility of efforts to stanch the flow have sounded a nightmarish alarm for the United States, Mexico and Cuba.
These three countries not only share the coastline of the Gulf, we share (to decidedly different degrees) the pain of recession. Only days before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, the Obama Administration moved to open new areas of the East Coast to oil drilling, in part in response to the siren song of jobs and profits for American companies. The American Petroleum Institute claimed that “exploring for and developing our nation’s offshore resources could help generate more than a trillion dollars in revenue and create thousands of jobs to add to the already 9.2 million jobs supported by today’s oil and natural gas industry.”
What a difference a few weeks makes. While the debate about drilling will continue in the United States, Cuba is in a different position, and their economy in a different place: not facing mere recession, but a free fall. Cash-starved Cuba’s drilling in its Economic Exclusive Zone is not a question of if, but when. And with U.S. law prohibiting any meaningful cooperation not only on exploration and extraction but also on disaster preparedness and mitigation, the future may hold more Deepwater Horizon disasters, and even less capacity to handle them.
The Spanish oil company Repsol has contracted with an Italian company to bring a deepwater drill rig into Cuban waters. If that’s not ominous enough, the rig is being assembled in China, a country that does not enjoy a reputation for quality control. That may be unfair, but it is fair to say that many people who might not have been that concerned about such an operation before the Deepwater Horizon incident are paying close attention now.
Today’s New America event U.S. – Cuba Engagement in the Gulf: Lessons from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill asked the questions: Are we prepared? What’s at stake? And, where should the Obama Administration go from here? The answers: no, a lot, and forward with alacrity.

Jorge Pi


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