Cuba’s oil reserves match those of the United States

Mother nature, it emerged this week, appears to have blessed the island of Cuba with enough oil reserves to vault it into the ranks of energy powers. The government announced there may be more than 20 billion barrels of recoverable oil in offshore fields in Cuba’s share of the Gulf of Mexico, more than twice the previous estimate.

If confirmed, it puts Cuba’s reserves on par with those of the US and into the world’s top 20. Drilling is expected to start next year by Cuba’s state oil company Cubapetroleo, or Cupet.

“It would change their whole equation. The government would have more money and no longer be dependent on foreign oil,” said Kirby Jones, founder of the Washington-based US-Cuba Trade Association. “It could join the club of oil exporting nations.”

A consortium of companies led by Spain’s Repsol had tested wells and were expected to begin drilling the first production well in mid-2009, and possibly several more later in the year, he said.

Cuba’s unexpected arrival into the big oil league could increase pressure on the next administration to loosen the embargo to let US oil companies participate in the bonanza and reduce US dependency on the middle east, said Jones. “Up until now the embargo did not really impact on us in a substantive, strategic way. Oil is different. It’s something we need and want.”

Countries around the world formerly locked into sectarian political bags have learned the lesson of building their nation’s economy by trading with friend and foe alike. At the same time, the United States has embraced the death spiral of religious crusades and regime change. Locking our own industries out of business that frankly is a natural.

But, hey – “purity of essence and bodily fluids” is more important than commerce to some people.

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