Are the Chinese Drilling of Florida's Coast?

It's become a regular talking point in energy policy debates that China and Cuba are drilling for oil only 60 miles off of Florida's coast. If true, it would mean that China is drilling for oil closer to Florida than any U.S. firm. But this report from the McClatchy news service says it's just an urban legend.

no one can prove that the Chinese are drilling anywhere off Cuba's shoreline. The China-Cuba connection is "akin to urban legend," said Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican from Florida who opposes drilling off the coast of his state but who backs exploration in ANWR.

"China is not drilling in Cuba's Gulf of Mexico waters, period," said Jorge Pinon, an energy fellow with the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami and an expert in oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Martinez cited Pinon's research when he took to the Senate floor Wednesday to set the record straight. . . .

China's Sinopec oil company does have an agreement with the Cuban government, but it's to develop onshore resources west of Havana, Pinon said. The Chinese have done some seismic testing, he said, but no drilling, and nothing offshore. . . .

Cuba's state oil company, Cupet, has issued exploration contracts to companies from India, Canada, Spain, Malaysia and Norway, according to diplomats.

But many oil companies from those countries have expressed reservations about how to turn potential crude oil into product. Cuba doesn't have the refinery capacity, and the Cuban embargo prohibits the oil from coming to U.S. refineries, Pinon said.

The most recent high-profile contract with Cuba went to Brazil's state oil company, Petrobras. Cuba inked a contract with Petrobras in January, allowing the Brazilian energy giant to search for oil in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico that are within Cuba's sovereign territory.