Friday, May 26, 2006

Off-coast drilling will happen let's get in game


Off-coast drilling will happen; let's get in game
By Larry Craig

May 26, 2006

Last week I, along with nine other Republican senators, including the
chairman of Energy and chairman of Intelligence, and three influential
Democrats, introduced the Western Hemisphere Energy Security Act. In
light of our current energy crunch, this bill would allow U.S. companies
and producers the opportunity to compete with the likes of China, India,
France and others who are exploring and extracting oil resources 50
miles off our southern coast in some potentially lucrative waters in the
north Cuban basin.

Under current law, U.S. companies cannot drill in these international
waters. Congress seeks to change that as Americans have had enough of
dependence on foreign sources of oil and $3 gas.

First, the public wants our country to diversify our resources and
become less dependent on Middle East oil. Second, experts in Latin
American politics make a strong case that our disengagement policy
toward Latin America is having serious consequences for U.S. economic,
national security and resource interests in the Western Hemisphere. In
particular, the names of Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of
Bolivia are becoming common in public discussion, and we have seen a
radical change in Latin America, where countries are turning to leftist
and socialist governments.

These developments do not serve our economic or national security
interests, with the nationalization of industries in several Latin
American countries. However, they do serve the very interests of
countries around the world with similar governments and policies. In
particular, China is aggressively exploiting these developments right on
our doorstep.

Just recently the Bush administration's National Security Strategy has
pointed to China's extreme resource hunger with concern, because China
is "acting as if they can somehow lock-up energy supplies around the
world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up."

I could not agree more, especially as Chinese oil drills are about to be
planted 50 miles off our coast and Venezuela purchases 18 oil rigs from
China. In fact, Chávez has stated numerous times that he seeks to divert
his oil exports away from the United States to China. Should this ever
occur, it goes without saying that it could have devastating impacts on
our economy.

So today, we must re-evaluate our failed policy of disengagement, which
limits our ability to diversify our resources and compete with China,
India and others. Disengagement also dooms the governments of Latin
America to repeat their failed history, rather than join the community
of modern and progressive democracies.

Anyone who fears the small island of Cuba shows no faith in the great
concepts of America, capitalism, the power of engagement and a human's
will to be free.

Clearly, those who do fear Cuba, Venezuela and others must understand
that such isolation has only resulted in creating a vacuum, which China
has eagerly stepped in to fill. I, for one, can no longer stand by and
let fear dictate our foreign policy. Sitting on the sidelines promotes
stagnation, not change, and only diminishes our influence in the region.

Practically speaking, Cuba is an irrelevant factor in the world of
foreign and global affairs. This may be why consecutive administrations
and Congresses have allowed a small group of people with a special
grudge against Cuba, legitimate or not, to have free rein on U.S.
foreign policy toward Cuba for domestic political purposes.

For the sake of our national and economic security, this is wrong.
Enough is enough, and that is clearly evident by the quick, diverse and
vast support in the Senate for my bill.

It isn't as if Cuban oil won't be extracted if U.S. producers do not
participate. It will be; there is no debate.

So if this is to happen, Floridians ought to demand it be done by the
best, most environmentally responsible companies in the world. China's
inexperience in this area and poor environmental record is troubling at

As President Bush said recently, "China is not our enemy." He is
absolutely right. China isn't our enemy; we are our own worst enemy.
While we debate endlessly about energy independence and diversification,
China is locking up oil plots right off our coast. Let's get in the
game, so the job is done right.

U.S. Sen. Larry Craig is a Republican from Idaho.,0,5493651.story?coll=sfla-news-opinion

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