Saturday, July 08, 2006

Florida in cross hairs of US hunt for oil

Cuba's offshore plans rouse debate in US over whether to ease trade restrictions and drilling ban.

Less than 50 miles from Key West, below the waters of the North Cuban Basin, are potentially billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.

It's an opportunity Cuba can't pass up. So late last year, Fidel Castro's government started contracting out 59 lots in Cuban waters for exploratory drilling.

That, in turn, has tapped into a gusher of controversy in the United States - especially since in nearby American waters, the federal government maintains a moratorium on any oil drilling.

China, Canada, Spain, and India are among the countries that have snapped up Cuba's lots, while the US oil industry has stood by unhappily, abiding by America's decades-old trade embargo with the communist nation. This comes on top of the industry's frustration with the US offshore drilling moratorium - though legislation passed by the House last week is a controversial first step toward lifting the ban.


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