Monday, August 27, 2007

A Closer Look at Udall's Bill to Open Cuba to U.S. Drilling

On July 25, Boulder liberal Rep. Mark Udall introduced a bill before Congress that would permit American oil companies to explore and drill off the shore of Cuba. In introducing the bill, he delivered the following speech on the House floor (excerpted for brevity):

Madam Speaker, today I am introducing a bill to permit Americans and American companies to take part in exploring for and development of energy resources offshore of Cuba and other nearby countries.
  • The bill would make an exception to all laws, Executive Orders, and regulations that now prohibit exports to or imports from Cuba or transactions in property in which a Cuban national has an interest. This exception would apply to transactions necessary for the exploration for and development of hydrocarbon resources--such as petroleum or natural gas--from offshore areas under the control of Cuba or another foreign government that are contiguous to the exclusive economic zone of the United States. The bill would also permit Americans to travel to, from, and within Cuba in connection with such exploration and development activities....
  • ...Under the bill, the only restriction would be that any exploration or development by an American company offshore from Cuba would be subject to the same conditions for protection of fish, wildlife, and the environment as would be the case if the activities were carried out in the parts of the outer continental shelf under the control of the United States.
  • Madam Speaker, I am not in favor of unlimited development of oil and gas wherever those resources may be found. In our country, I think some areas should remain off-limits to such activities, and that in some other areas it should be subject to restrictions to protect other resources and values. And if Congress were called to make similar decisions about resources in areas controlled by Cuba I well might support similar restrictions for the offshore areas the government of Cuba has decided to make available for exploration and development.
  • But I think that once the government of Cuba has made that decision, our Government should not insist on preventing American companies from seeking the opportunity to take part in those activities--especially since the American energy industry is unrivalled for its technical expertise and its ability to meet the technical challenges involved. My legislation would allow them to seek that opportunity. [emphasis added]
First, notice how admiringly Rep. Udall speaks of "the American energy industry." Left wing attack blogger David Sirota rails on Udall's opponent Bob Schaffer (republished here and here) for his "ties to the energy industry," predicting it will cause a rift in Schaffer's support among hunters and sportsmen. Will Sirota similarly rail on Udall for catering to "the energy industry" by sponsoring this bill? (A month has passed since a watcher first introduced readers to Udall's inconsistency in this area.) It hasn't happened yet.

Finally, Udall said: "I think some areas should remain off-limits to such activities, and that in some other areas it should be subject to restrictions to protect other resources and values." In other words, Cuba's coastline is great but Colorado's Roan plateau is off-limits. What criteria does Udall suggest to distinguish between drilling on the two? Does Udall favor economic benefits for Castro and the repressive Cuban Communist regime, but not for Colorado's residents on the Western Slope? Given Udall's record on environmental issues, his sponsorship of the bill to open up Cuban waters for American drilling demands these questions be asked ... and more.

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