Cuban Oil Find, Drilling Reverberates in Washington

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"Oil discovery by a nation still under U.S. embargo will trigger strange political alliances."

AdvisorOne, Gil Weinreich

The discovery of up to 20 billion barrels of oil just 60 miles from the Florida coast might seem like good news at a time of high petroleum prices.

But when those resources are controlled by a nation under embargo and in a region beset by a catastrophic spill that caused 11 deaths and the ruination of marine life and economy of the Gulf, the oil discovery promises to trigger the attention of Washington and even strange political alliances.

"[The find] raises a lot of issues regarding safe exploration given the experience we have had in the Gulf," says George Philippidis, co-director of the Energy Business Forum at Florida International University and an expert in inter-American energy cooperation. "I am very concerned the way any exploration will be done that close to our coast, especially in Florida where tourism is one of our top industries."

While environmentalists will almost surely oppose the oil development, opponents of the aging Castro regime have already initiated legislative action. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., has introduced the Caribbean Coral Reef Protection Act, which would sanction companies assisting Cuba in the development of its petroleum industry.

"This legislation will deny U.S. visas to any individuals investing more than $1 million in Cuba's petroleum sector, and makes it illegal for any U.S. citizen to help the regime explore for drilling opportunities in Cuban waters," said Ros-Lehtinen in a statement she issued Friday. "We cannot allow the Castro regime to become the oil tycoons of the Caribbean. I will continue to work with my congressional colleagues to prevent oil drilling by the Cuban regime, which poses a national security and environmental threat to the United States."

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