Oil Desperation Leads to Strange Bedfellows

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I like to keep an eye on a few governments around the world. The two easiest for me to keep an eye on are our own, and that of the USA. For one thing, they legislate in English. As a postgraduate, I don’t have a lot of time for translating languages I don’t speak, nor money to afford an interpreter.

Something from across the pond caught my eye as I scanned the list of new legislation my faithful laptop had fetched like a shiny silver retriever. The act was entitled “Western Hemisphere Energy Security Act of 2012”. Not terribly fascinating, one might think, but then the abstract:

“To permit United States companies to participate in the exploration for and the extraction of hydrocarbon resources from any portion of a foreign maritime exclusive economic zone that is contiguous to the exclusive economic zone of the United States, and for other purposes.”

Now the significance of this passed me by until an epiphanic moment when Cuba came up in an unrelated conversation. It is my suspicion that the United States is making moves to open bilateral trade with Cuba, with the intention of getting its mits on oil reserves in order to do something about inflating oil prices. Cuba’s relations with the United States would be euphemised as strained for most of the second half of the 20th Century, and for all of the 21st. A trade embargo still exists blocking most exports from the USA to Cuba, but as of the millennium this has excluded specific items relating to medical goods and foodstuffs.

(1) IN GENERAL- The Secretary of the Treasury shall authorize under a general license…, Code of Federal Regulations, for travel to, from, or within Cuba in connection with– `(A) exploration for, and the extraction of, hydrocarbon resources in any part of a foreign maritime exclusive…

H. R. 413
Western Hemisphere 5 Energy Security Act of 2012

I don’t think this is a sudden change in US policy so much as the sound of the other boot hitting the floor. The US has been getting progressively warmer to the Cuba post millennium, and particularly in recent years, with travel restrictions to Cuba having been eased in 2011, and US delegates meeting Raul Castro to discuss ‘bilateral relations’ on the 24th February this year. None of this should be seen as surprise; rising oil prices is becoming a big domestic issue inside the US, especially with an election on the near horizon. Whether this will have any effect on said prices is debatable, and will remain to be seen. In any case, it shows that the US is now so desperate to obtain new supplies of the black gold that they are willing to make some very strange partnerships.

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Philip Adler is a Ph. D. Student of Crystallography, studying in Chemistry.

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