Green groups' double standard on Cuba's oil drilling plans
BY THOMAS J. PYLE
By the dawn of 2012, Spanish company Repsol will be well into its
oil-drilling endeavor a mere 60 miles south of Key West. The move, an
effort to capture some of the five billion to 20 billion barrels of oil
believed to lie in the coastal waters, has been brewing against the
backdrop of near-silence from the environmental activist contingent in
the United States. What we have here is a green group double standard on
The Scarabeo 9 rig will explore for oil 65 miles closer to the Florida
coast than any American oil company is allowed to drill.
We must remember that this is nothing new, and it's in line with
President Obama's posturing in Brazil. In fact, he quipped that he wants
America to be Brazil's best costumer when it starts producing oil — and
soon we will be able to buy oil from Cuba.
The Cuban project will involve drilling six wells not far from the
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and from Biscayne and Everglades
national parks. Such activity sanctioned by the U.S. government would
have created a maelstrom within the enviro lobby; yet there has been
scant concern voiced about the potential ramifications of an oil spill
on these protected lands and nearby wildlife.
In contrast, "green" groups couldn't wait to slam the Obama
administration's decision last year to officially end the Gulf of Mexico
On a Democracy Now! radio segment last year about the announcement,
Brendan Cummings, public lands director at the Center for Biological
Diversity, said: "It's horribly disappointing. Rather than instituting a
fundamental change of the failed energy policies of the Bush-Cheney era,
[this] is Obama essentially embracing wholeheartedly the policy … that
we can really drill our way to energy independence."
Greenpeace director Phil Radford responded to the news with a sardonic
"Is this President Obama's clean energy plan or Palin's drill, baby,
Representatives from some groups have even praised Cuba's imminent plans
Dan Whittle, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, told TIME
last month that "the Cubans seem very motivated to do [the drilling]
right. They understand an accident would only set back their plans and
put their foreign partners under pressure to hold off investing." Former
Environmental Protection Agency administrator William Reilly is pushing
for U.S.-Cuba cooperation in the event of a spill, calling such a move
"a no-brainer for the U.S." despite our decades-old embargo with what is
inarguably a tyrannical, anti-American regime.
And earlier this year, environment and sustainability expert Jorge
Piñón, a visiting research fellow at Florida International University in
Miami, argued against legislation proposed by Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan
to block Cuba's drilling. Piñón was quoted as saying: "The question to
ask is, 'Does the company that's going to drill have a respectable
record of environmental stewardship and does it have the knowhow?' And
the answer is yes. I'm not concerned with Cuba drilling for oil, I'm
very concerned we don't have an emergency plan in case of a spill.''
Unsurprisingly, insouciance about the project is also present in the
public sector. Just four months after the Gulf oil spill, a State
Department spokeswoman told The Miami Herald that, with regard to the
drilling, the federal government assumed there would be "adequate
safeguards in place" to prevent blowouts. Shortly thereafter New Mexico
Gov. Bill Richardson called the drilling a "potential inroad" for ending
the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba.
And although the Cuban wells will be deeper than the ill-fated Macondo
well, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Michael
Bromwich said last month that the U.S. government had spoken with Repsol
about its drilling plans but hadn't "made a deal to ensure that work
meets the same standards it would if it were in U.S. waters," according
to a Houston Chronicle story last April.
We can only imagine the uproar if either of these statements had been
the Obama administration's response to American oil companies' permit
applications following the Gulf spill last year. It's time we called
"green" groups out on their double standards.
Thomas J. Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research.
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