HAVANA — Cuba is still waiting for its offshore oil rush.
It has been four years since U.S. experts said the island may sit atop nearly 10 billion barrels of deep-sea oil, revealing for Cuba an enormous economic Catch-22.
Cuba needs the technical expertise of major Western oil companies to get to any of the unexploited crude. Yet on Feb. 7 the U.S. marked the 47th year of a trade embargo that has blocked producers with the technical ability to drill that deep, denying Cuba what could be a massive windfall.
A major discovery was supposed to transform Cuba into an oil exporter, drawing the foreign currency it needs to finance imports of food and machinery to modernize its communist economy and to raise state wages that average less than a dollar a day.
With public debts mounting, the government was forced to buy out its two main drilling partners from a 25-year deal, and even high-ranking officials say Cuba imports about half the roughly 200,000 barrels of oil consumes a day at a discount from leftist ally Venezuela.
The embargo and world economic crisis have undermined some of the appeal of costly deep-water drilling off the island, and Cuba’s existing oil industry is floundering.
Output is thought to have dropped by a quarter since 2003 as its top field, found by Russians in 1971, dries up.
There has been talk of President Barack Obama easing U.S. sanctions, which could unleash a flood of energy investment.
Excuse me, Mr. Obama! Have you considered helping domestic producers? You have sanctions on them, too, you know. They aren’t even fishing for government handouts (well, except for Boone). All they want is for Uncle Sam to realize that he’s in the energy business, too, and that cooperation in the orderly development of America’s domestic resources is good for us all.
“Sí, podemos, camarada!”