Cuban oil exploration - the revolution digs deep
‘I asked Che, if you think there’s oil in the Gulf, why don’t we go and investigate? He told me that we can’t because the technology doesn’t exist.’ Juan Valdes Gravalosa*
Today, the technology to which Che aspired is steaming across the oceans towards the northern coast of Cuba in the form of Scarabeo 9; a $750 million investment by the Cuban government in one of the world’s largest semi-submersible oil drilling rigs. Drilling on exploratory wells in the Gulf of Mexico will begin before the end of 2011.
In mid-November 2011, Rafael Tenreiro, head of exploration for the state-owned oil company Cubapetroleo, stated: ‘It is not a matter of if we have oil, it is a matter of when we are going to start producing.’ JOSEPH ESKOVITCHL reports.
Economic and social benefits for Cuba
The October 2008 announcement that Cuba had discovered significant offshore oil reserves in its ‘exclusive economic zone’ (EEZ) around the Gulf of Mexico alarmed the US establishment. The US Geological Survey estimates reserves of around 5 billion barrels and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, However, Cuban sources place reserves closer to 20 billion barrels. In 2009, Cuba consumed 169,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). With domestic production from existing oil wells at around 50,000 bpd, Cuba still relies on 120,000 bpd in imports.
Successful extraction of commercially-viable reserves, even at the lower end of the estimates, will make Cuba energy independent. If the higher estimates prove correct, Cuba will sit between China (20 billion barrels and 14th world ranking) and the US (19 billion, 15th world ranking) in terms of world reserves. In an era where oil and energy supplies become ever more crucial, the potential for the Cuban revolution to secure its future development and decisively break the crippling half-century blockade by US imperialism is increasingly realistic.
This does not mean, however, that a consumerist society, or the vast inequalities seen in many oil-exporting nations, will emerge in Cuba. The socialist process will ensure that future oil wealth is invested in social and economic development. Furthermore, Cuba’s welfare and developmentalist internationalism will extend these benefits throughout the oppressed world, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean through ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.
A history of economic warfare
Depriving Cuba of access to oil has been a key tenet of the US blockade. In 1960, the US government pressured US and British oil refineries on the island to refuse to refine imported Soviet crude. The Cuban Revolution removed this obstacle by nationalising the refineries.
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