Oil needs to be developed, not demonized

Cuba is up to its old tricks again.As with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the island nation is using its geographical proximity to U.S. soil as a point of contention by going forward with plans to drill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although a Cuban rig would most likely be a joint venture between Cuba and a doting welfare state such as Spain or Norway, it could also be between Cuba and Malaysia or China.

Such a rig may sit a pale 60 miles from Florida ‘s coasts.

This should infuriate all Americans, but not because this setup could jeopardize national security. Instead, Americans should ask their policymakers why they are barred from getting a piece of the pie.After all, if there’s oil in the Gulf that extends beyond the territorial realm of a defunct dictatorship and into American territory, Americans ought to use their superior technology and greater amount of capital to exploit it.

According to estimates by the Department of the Interior, the off-limit oil may top 95 billion barrels.

If the Cuban government is leasing its territory to drilling companies, it’s not hard to imagine there would be more oversight and transparency with an American company, rather than one that’s owned by the government.

This is the view Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., favors – an “I don’t like the idea of working with Cuba, but recognize the potential for damage control” stance.However, the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba prevents U.S. firms from bidding on the leases.

But as reported in USA Today, an offshore drilling ban enacted in 1981 prevents American firms from exploiting areas such as the Gulf of Mexico within 100 miles of the U.S. coastline with few exceptions.

In effect, the ban was intended to prevent a catastrophic oil spill. Although a company that destroys property should be punished and forced to remediate whatever environmental harm it caused, it is not right that the government should pre-emptively punish legitimate business ventures from going forward.

Understandably, the excessive nature of such a ban has detracted from U.S. energy security by disallowing corporations from taking advantage of the nation’s rich resources.

Of course, the Bush administration probably won’t condone American hydrocarbon development. Ever since the Democratic takeover of Congress, President Bush has been a bit green around the gills, cozying up to environmentalists and neglecting to talk about domestic fossil-fuel development.

According to a St. Petersburg Times article, in fact, Bush is flirting with Brazilian ethanol as a viable alternative or supplement to United States’ oil use.Although pro-ethanol rhetoric maintains the United States could become energy-independent with ethanol, the fact remains that America would have to import lots of ethanol to meet its energy needs. There’s also the problem of domestic ethanol subsidies.

Congress won’t repeal the 54-cent tax on imported ethanol. See protectionism in Congress for the reason.

Since the ethanol bubble has burst, the solution for fueling autos and lots of other American industries remains to be solved, but with an old and untapped solution.

This Monday, the New York Times published an article discussing how technologies such as steam flooding and computer modeling can succor oil from “dried-up” fields, including those in the United States.

Development of this type of extraction technology is fueled by the market economy. The effect is that greater quantities of harder-to-reach oil are now being tapped – as oil becomes harder to procure, its increased price makes it more profitable to mine using costly methods.

At Kern River oil field in California, for example, technology that didn’t exist 10 years ago has increased its yield above industry average, even though the whole field was expected to dry up in the ’90s.Also, a joint effort by several oil companies found strong evidence of a deposit in the Gulf of Mexico ranging between 3 billion and 15 billion barrels of profitable oil.

Such discoveries still don’t take into account the potential yield of the United States’ vast reserves of oil shale. As detailed in another New York Times article, estimates for the amount of recoverable shale oil in the United States range between 800 billion and 1.8 trillion barrels. The United States uses about 5.7 billion barrels per year.

In short, the United States is in no way strapped for oil, provided it pursues domestic development.

To kick-start the process, despite the wailing of environmentalists, the offshore drilling ban should be repealed or heavily compromised. Such a policy fosters energy independence and buys enough time to research feasible alternative fuels – unlike the pipe dream of ethanol – while continuing to meet U.S. energy needs.

Victoria Bekiempis is a sophomore majoring in history and French