Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico Oil Exploration Makes Strange Bedfellows

US Enviro Groups and Oil Execs Band Together to Promote End of Cold War-Era Hostilities Between Two Nations

BY KAREN HOFFMANN – MARCH 15, 2012

From his hotel in Havana, marine scientist and conservation policy specialist David Guggenheim, aka the “Ocean Doctor,” can see the lights of Scarabeo 9. The recently arrived oil-drilling platform off the Cubancoast began drilling exploratory deepwater wells on the Cuban side of the Florida Straits, about 70 miles from Key West, last month.

The 53,000-ton rig is, literally, under more pressure than Deepwater Horizon. Operated by Spanish company Repsol, it’s what’s known as an “ultra-deepwater” platform, drilling at depths up to 6,000 feet. (Deepwater Horizon’s depth was 5,000 feet.) A Scarabeo 9 spill would damage critical marine ecosystems in the Gulf.  US environmentalists and policymakers are concerned that Cuba doesn’t have the resources, technology, or expertise needed to prevent or respond to such a disaster.

But even the threat of irreparable environmental damage hasn’t been enough to clear away old Cold War resentments and political inertia between the two countries and get them working together to formulate an emergency response plan. Which is why an unlikely coalition of environmentalists, oil executives, and scientists — like Guggenheim — are joining forces to try to, in his words, “fight half a century of an illogical policy with logic.”

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