Natural resources have a aggravating habit of not paying any attention to the borders than men create. Water flows across international frontiers, air moves around the planet, even soil moves. Occasionally, that movement creates problems, as when one nation or state blocks the passage of water or air that is polluted by one entity damages the flora in another and impacts the economy. The United States and Mexico have recognized that sometimes that cross-border problem isn’t even visible.
Both nations drill for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, but there is no way to control the extraction of oil that is pooled below one country’s territory by a well that is drilled in the other’s territory. On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mexican Secretary (Chancellor) of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa signed an agreement of co-operation between the two nations for extraction of oil from cross-border reservoirs. Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar were present for the signing in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Secretary Clinton said the agreement would “ensure safe, efficient, responsible exploration of the oil and gas reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico. These reservoirs could hold considerable reserves that would benefit the United States and Mexico alike, but they don’t necessarily stop neatly at our maritime borders. This could lead to disputes if a company discovers a reservoir that straddles the boundary – disputes, for example, over who should do the extraction and who much they should extract.” The deal sets rules for extraction of oil or gas from shared reservoirs and eases the fears of many Mexicans that American-backed international companies would drill in our waters to extract oil from theirs. Under the agreement, companies that work in America would partner with the Mexican nationalized oil industry for these extractions, but no restraints would be imposed where the reservoir does not cross borders. If a fair agreement cannot be reached over the ratio of extraction from a particular reservoir, neither country can extract the oil.
There are 1.5 million acres of borderland that will become more accessible because of this agreement. That’s an area larger than the state of Delaware. It could contain as much as 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
The agreement also addresses concerns about safety issues in the aftermath of major oil rig failures in both countries, the Mexican 1979 Ixtoc spill and our 2010 BP spill. It was not mentioned in the press releases if there were any provisions concerning the way oil and gas extraction is turning the seabed in the Gulf of Mexico into a fractured sponge, with billions of gallons of oil and natural gas being extracted making the seabed very unstable.
Now, what are we planning on doing about a similar agreement with Cuba, which is exploring their share of that seabed?