Cuba Could Drill Near U.S. Coast by End of Year

Cuba could start offshore drilling operations as soon as the end of this year, exploring closer to Florida's coast than American companies can.

With help from Venezuela state-owned oil company PDVSA, Cuba is modernizing its oil exploration and production capacity in preparation for its offshore venture that could yield huge amounts of oil and natural gas.

"Our studies ... have shown there is a great potential, especially offshore," said Dagoberto Rodriguez, the senior Cuban diplomat in the United States. "Basically, we know that there is oil. The problem is just where it is."

Last year, the House passed a bill allowing coastal states to ban drilling operations up to 100 miles from their shores. However, a 1977 agreement between Cuba and the United States evenly split the seas between the two countries, meaning Cuba would have rights to drill as close as 60 miles from Key West, Fla.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated two years ago that Cuba can lay claim to 4.6 billion barrels of oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under the ocean floor that spans between the country and the United States (David J. Lynch, USA Today).

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