Cubans and Russians May Drill Near Florida Shore

Published November 1, 2009

The Russian and Cuban governments have contracted for Russian energy companies to search for oil and natural gas deposits in the North Cuba Basin within 45 miles of the Florida Keys.

Should Russian energy companies find and recover oil and natural gas in the basin, they would be drilling closer to Florida shores than U.S. companies are allowed to drill.

As part of a deal signed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, Russia is given oil-and-gas exploration rights in Cuba’s economic zone in the Gulf of Mexico, while Cuba receives a $150 million credit from Moscow for the purchase of agricultural equipment and construction materials.

“Whether the Russians ultimately drill in Cuban waters a mere 45 miles from the Florida Keys or much farther away near the western tip of Cuba, it is indeed ironic that in all likelihood they will still be drilling closer to Florida’s shores than U.S. companies are allowed to do,” said Robert F. Sanchez, policy director of the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Florida.

“Moreover, if the Russians do find significant amounts of oil and gas in Cuba’s territorial waters, it will only serve to strengthen the Kremlin’s ability to practice petro-diplomacy, using its plentiful supplies of oil and gas to exert pressure on the nations that are dependent on those supplies,” Sanchez explained.

Sanchez notes the huge potential reserves of oil and natural gas off Florida’s coasts could create jobs and increase state and federal tax revenues if U.S., rather than foreign, companies extract such resources.

Said Sanchez, “Tapping into those resources in an environmentally safe manner not only would benefit the nation as a whole by decreasing its reliance on imported energy, but the lease fees and royalties would directly benefit Florida’s economy, which would also stand to benefit indirectly from the ancillary jobs created in support of the offshore activities.”

Drew Thornley ([email protected]) writes from Texas.