Calling Dr. Strangelove!

August 6, 2009

Perhaps you’ve heard about the Russian submarines patrolling international waters off the U.S. East Coast (if you haven’t, take a look at a Reuters story about it) in what feels like an echo of the old Cold War. The Pentagon’s not worried about this particular venture, but there are concerns from the U.S. energy industry about another Russian foray — this one in concert with Cuba. In rhetoric that may ring a bell with anyone who saw the 1964 satirical nuclear-fear movie “Dr. Strangelove,”
the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research is sounding the alarm about a Russian-Cuban deal to drill for offshore oil near Florida.

“Russia, Communist Cuba Advance Offshore Energy Production Miles Off Florida’s Coast,” is the title on the institute’s news release. Below that is the prescription for action: “Efforts Should Send Strong Message to Interior Dept. to Open OCS in Five-Year Plan.” OCS stands for outer continental shelf, an area that was closed to oil drilling until the Bush administration opened it last year in a largely symbolic move aimed at driving down the sky-high gasoline prices of the Summer of 2008.

Environmentalists hate the idea. So does Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who has made opposition to offshore drilling one of his signature issues. But as it turns out, it’s unlikely that anybody — from Russia, Cuba, the United States or anywhere else — is going to get petroleum out of the OCS in the immediate future.

For a start, it takes time to set up a deep-water offshore drilling rig. And any Cuban effort would be further hampered by the need to use equipment with less than 10 percent American technology, to comply with the long standing U.S. embargo against Cuba. As my Reuters colleague Russell Blinch reported in June, there may be scope for possible U.S.-Cuban cooperation here but no Cuban drilling platform is likely to be in the area this year.

Reports of a Russian-Cuban deal to explore for oil in the Gulf of Mexico prompted a quick response from the Institute for Energy Research, self-described as a free-market energy think-tank.

“This agreement between Russia and Cuba should serve as a wake-up call to Congress and this administration, especially (Interior) Secretary (Ken) Salazar, who is slow-walking a new offshore energy blueprint for the nation,” the institute’s president, Thomas Pyle, said in a statement. “If we are to remain competitive in the global market, our government must take its foot off the brake, and expand domestic energy production of all forms, onshore and off.”

What’s your take? Should the United States drill baby drill off Florida’s coast, reasoning that if U.S. companies don’t, Russia and Cuba will? Keep a congressional ban in place? Or wait and see?

Photo credit: Reuters staff photographer (Pensacola Beach, Florida, June 25, 2008); Reuters stringer/Russia (Russian nuclear submarine off Vladivostok, July 24, 2009)


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No to drilling for oil. Hydrogen is the answer. It’s renewable, does not polute and frees our country from the security issues and economic issues oil brings. We need to start today to develop and deploy the hydrogen infastructure to support hydrogen vehicles. By 2015, Japan and the Euro zone will have their hydrogen infastructure nearly complete and China will not be far behind. So what is wrong with the United States leadership. It surely isn’t the special interest money, is it boys?

Posted by George | Report as abusive

Drilling for more oil may be an ugly solution, but at least it is a solution. Those that describe hydrogen as a solution are missing a fundamental aspect of hydrogen: HYDROGEN DOES NOT PRODUCE ELECTRICITY. Hydrogen is a way to store energy, and that is all. It takes electricity to separate hydrogen from water, and there is no substantial natural source of hydrogen. Any energy source is going to have a downside. Fossil fuels pollute. Wind farms kill bats. Solar cells are expensive. Bio-fuel alters food prices. Nuclear power makes nuclear waste. We need to realize the inherent costs of ANY energy source and work on controlling them without wasting time dreaming about free energy.

Posted by Matt | Report as abusive

We are already supporting half a dozen oppressive dictatorships in the middle east with money we give them for their oil. Why should we start supporting Cuba and Russia with money for OUR oil? There is no argument against drilling. Even the most ardent environmentalist has to admit that our rigs will probably be safer than Cuba’s. Let’s protect the environment and get our rigs built before Russia and Cuba make a mess of things. We’ll be protecting our economy at the same time.

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

best posting ever regarding this subject matt.ever thought running for office here in CA, we are desperate for someone here with some understanding of the subject.they discovered gas and oil off the north east coast of england and scotland and it developed into a tremendous blessing for a region that had suffered unemployment and recession for many saddens me to see people wandering around here unemployed and there is a klondike just off do we get past the ideology that,s rampant here?

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

I suppose,it is unthinkable that it might be possible to build a hydrogen production plant that burns hydrogen to generate the electricity required to produce more hydrogen. Can you say self sustaining? We certainly can’t have that, now can we?

Posted by Raymond | Report as abusive

Ho….Hum…. more fuel for the professional paranoids….

Posted by pdlane | Report as abusive

The Russians are desperate for any edge on US and China, and with a huge population crash looming in the future, they have to get money from somewhere.@ Raymond,Got any numbers on what it would take, hydrogen-wise, for this self-sustaining venture? How much hydrogen used vs. hydrogen created? If its close to 1-to-1 ratio, what would be the point, other than a shiny new facility with a zero-sum outcome? Self-sustaining literally means producing enough to sustain oneself. It in no way implies NET GAIN, which is the whole point.

Posted by Patrick E. | Report as abusive

um, Isn’t Russia a little bigger country with more land mass to explore with todays technology. Oh, right, they don’t approve of a free enterprise for research like that. Russia can’t drill somewhere else? um, is Cuba our “friend” now that we relaxed certain policies against their country? is this about money? environment? a neocold war? ridiculous. i guess we need more holes in the earth to live vicariously for another 10 years. part-tae!

Posted by Guinness | Report as abusive

Hydrogen pollutes do your research, what we need is either geothermal/nuclear or solar, no more burning fuels that is for cave men.

Posted by john b | Report as abusive

…we need to apply all forms of energy that does not require electricity to create it in the first place, ranked from cheap to expensive. The environmental scale has tipped, to what the f ? maybe we can set jellyfish on fire with flints and see what happens.

Posted by Hour glass | Report as abusive