Huge oil reserves have been discovered in the waters that surround Cuba. Income from this unexpected windfall could tip the balance of the Cuban economy from Communist to capitalist and give us a great non-Middle Eastern place to buy oil (as long as we drop our Cold War era sanctions against that country). However, off-shore drilling could ALSO be another disaster for Florida beaches, if there is a BP-type oil spill.

In order to ward this off, a group of US oil cleanup experts and environmentalists have visited Cuba to gather information on their Gulf of Mexico drilling plans. Could this be the start of a long-awaited "détente" between the two countries? In Yahoo News, Jordi Zamora quotes a State Department official as saying, "The team is not traveling to Cuba in any official capacity. We expect any company operating in Cuba’s oil and gas sector to adhere to industry environmental, health, and safety standards, and to have adequate prevention, mitigation, and remediation systems in place in the event of an incident."

No US companies will be doing the drilling, since they’re not allowed to do business in that country. Cuban government official Manuel Marrero says the drilling will be done by a group of unspecified foreign companies, but did not specify which ones.

Drilling for oil in the ocean doesn’t just kill marine life, it kills PEOPLE too (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to these shows). A new study finds that helicopters that service the drilling platforms and vessels in the Gulf of Mexico crash on average more than six times per year resulting in an average of 5 deaths per year. From 1983 to 2009, 178 crashes resulted in 139 deaths, including 41 pilots and 3 co-pilots. Mechanical failure was the most common cause, followed by bad weather. Analysis determined that the most common result of mechanical failure in both fatal and nonfatal crashes was loss of engine power, which occurred in almost one-third of fatal crashes.

The majority of forced landings following mechanical failure occurred in water, with 20% resulting in the sinking of the helicopter despite the fact that most helicopters are being equipped with pilot-activated flotation devices.

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