Obama Balks At Offshore Oil Drilling-But Not Castro's Cuba

The United States is suffering from high unemployment, high energy prices, stagnant economic growth, and a massive budget deficit. By expediting the development of offshore oil resources, the government could tackle all four of these problems simultaneously. Yet for some reason, the Administration continues to drag its feet.

In contrast, the Cuban government has no problem providing a hungry world with more oil. This is leading to an awkward situation indeed, especially when some experts who recently visited Cuba report that the Havana government is taking the project seriously and is heeding the lessons of the BP spill.

Castro: Drill baby drill!

Rather than taking the Cuban move as a kick in the pants to expedite comparable American efforts, the U.S. government did what it does best–threaten punishment on private companies for daring to provide the world with more energy. According to a story from The Hill:

A bipartisan group of 34 House members is pressuring Spanish oil giant Repsol to abandon its plans to drill in deep waters off Cuba’s northern coast, warning that the company could face liability in U.S. courts.

Their letter to Repsol — which warns that its plans will “provide direct financial benefit to the Castro dictatorship” — joins existing concerns about the environmental risk of spills in the waters 60 miles from Florida’s coast.

The Sept. 27 letter is signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and includes a substantial number of Florida lawmakers.

It states:

As to current law, Repsol may be in jeopardy of subjecting itself and its affiliates to criminal and civil liability in U.S. courts. Violations of the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD), the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Enforcement Act can lead to serious ramifications for individuals or businesses that deal with the Cuban regime. Additionally, there are only four U.S.-designated State Sponsors of Terrorism, and the laws that regulate commercial transactions with them, and the grave civil and criminal penalties that those laws impose, are comprehensive.

The whole letter and the list of signatories is available here.

Repsol plans to begin looking for oil off Cuba’s coast as soon as late 2011, according to press reports.

This is not the place to discuss the pros and cons of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, except to say that if the original purpose of the 1960s policy was to hurt the Castro regime, it doesn’t seem to be working too well.

The important lesson for today is that the other governments of the world aren’t nearly as foolish as the Americans’. They recognize that when you have valuable natural resources located in your jurisdiction, it makes sense to go ahead and develop them.

The U.S. government can continue wagging its finger at everybody else, and lecturing them on how they should emulate our great example in government investments in renewables…or American officials might decide to unshackle entrepreneurs to create jobs and cheaper energy.

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