Campaign 2010

Jun 17, 2008

House Republicans’ False Claim about Chinese Oil Drilling Off Cuba Called “Urban Legend”

What do the following Republicans have in common?


Vice President Dick Cheney

Representative Michele Bachmann (MN-06)

Candidate Brian Davis (MN-01)

Candidate John Gard (WI-08)

Representative Sam Graves (MO-06)

Candidate Melissa Hart (PA-04)

Candidate Luke Puckett (IN-02)

Representative Jean Schmidt (OH-02)

Representative Tim Walberg (MI-07)


They're all making the same false claim that China is drilling for oil off the coast of Florida in Cuban waters. 


"Americans are paying an average of $4.08 for a gallon of gas and all they're getting are lies and ‘urban legends' from Republicans," Jennifer Crider, Communications Director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  "If Republican Members and Republican candidates can't be trusted to tell the truth about where oil is being drilled, they certainly can't be trusted to do anything meaningful to lower the price of gas.  Americans struggling to afford to fill their gas tanks deserve better than fear mongering and lies about gas prices from Republicans."


Vice President Cheney's office was forced to issue a correction after Cheney made this claim.  Even Republican Senator Mel Martinez, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, stated that "Any talk of using some fabricated Cuba-China connection as an argument to change U.S. policy has no merit."  He also said, "Reports to the contrary are simply false. They are akin to urban legends." [Miami Herald, 6/12/08]




  • According to the Miami Herald, "The claim -- touted by House Republicans and carried on conservative talk radio -- was repudiated by Republican Senator Mel Martinez, an independent congressional report, industry experts and other observers, who said there is zero evidence for it." [6/14/08]


  • Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech last Wednesday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce quoted a column by George Will, who wrote last week that "drilling is under way 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are." [Miami Herald, 6/12/08]


  • Cheney's office said in a statement to The Associated Press that the vice president had erred. "It is our understanding that, although Cuba has leased out exploration blocks 60 miles off the coast of southern Florida, which is closer than American firms are allowed to operate in that area, no Chinese firm is drilling there," according to the statement.  [Associated Press State and Local Wire, 6/13/08]



  • Candidate Brian Davis (MN-01): "While our federal government sits on its hands just 45 miles off the coast of Florida, the government of Cuba is working along with China in developing oil fields. Past predictions of a limited supply of oil have often proved wrong. Offshore areas along the U.S. coastline and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska have an estimated 100 billion barrels of crude oil, enough to provide all U.S. transportation needs for more than a decade. To start addressing the problem of rising gas prices and our economic "stall," it is my view that our government should remove obstacles to increasing domestic oil production as soon as possible. Opening ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf for oil exploration and recovery would be a good first step."


"If Congress wants an energy bill it should work to remove obstacles to domestic energy production by increasing supply, such as opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf for oil exploration and recovery. While our federal government sits on its hands, just 45 miles off the cost of Florida, Cuba is working with China developing oil fields."


  • Candidate John Gard (WI-08): Gard wants to increase access for oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf; after all, he says, China's doing it. "China is now starting the process of drilling within eyesight of the Florida coast because they are in Cuban waters and we continue to have a Congress that says 'no additional exploration or drilling in North America.'"


  • Representative Sam Graves (MO-06): During a speech back in his district, Sam Graves made the claim that China was already drilling off the coast of the United States.


"Though Cuba doesn't have the technology nor do they have the money to do it.  But China's doin' it for 'em.  China's within 40 miles of our coast right now drilling for oil, taking it out of the ground, then taking it back" [Speech 5/30/08]


  • Candidate Melissa Hart (PA-04): Hart: You know who's drilling in the Gulf of Mexico? Question: Well I know the Mexicans are - and so are we to...Hart: So are the Chinese....The Chinese did it pretty quickly when Cuba allowed them to.



  • Representative Jean Schmidt (OH-02):  During a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives Congresswoman Jean Schmidt made the claim that China was already drilling off the coast of the Florida.  Then she accused Congress of failing to Act. 


"This very day there is indeed drilling activity off of our country's coast. Not by our U.S. companies. That would be illegal. Instead, the Chinese are drilling off the coast of Florida with their new energy partner, Cuba. This Congress has failed to act time and time again."  [House of Representatives, 6/05/08]


ThinkProgress spoke with a spokesman for Schmidt who said that the congresswoman is standing behind her statement and still believes that the "Communists understand" what the U.S. Congress doesn't -- "We need more oil exploration." He added that "it doesn't matter" which country is doing the drilling as long as Cuba continues to lease plots of land to foreign countries.


  • Representative Tim Walberg (MI-07): Question: How far along are the Chinese in their attempts to drill off the coast of Florida? Walberg: Well, they'll be there. They're there.
    Question: That's what I mean, how far along are they?" Walberg: They're there. ;