Spain gets a lot of its oil from Libya and you may have noticed that Libya is a little unsettled at the moment. Consequently, the Spanish Government is a tad worried about the potential for an increased fuel bill and the disastrous consequences for the creaking economic recovery. Last week, the Interior Minister announced a reduction in the speed limit on motorways from 120 kph to 110 kph and a reduction in the ticket prices on suburban trains. Both measures aimed at reducing the fuel consumed in car journeys. Throughout the week bits and pieces of new legislation aimed at energy saving have been dribbling out - low consumption bulbs in street lighting, subsidies to buy low friction tyres for private cars, new biomass burning boilers in public buildings, use of military airspace to shorten journeys for civil flights and so on with about twenty ideas in all.
Complaints about the plans have come from every side. The bar talk is that the reduced speed limit is simply a trick to increase the income from speeding fines. The two biggish cities in Spain said they wouldn't be reducing the train fares without State subsidy. The opposition pundits talk of piecemeal and half hearted legislation instead of fundamental change.
I'm not going to argue any sort of case for or against the measures but it did amuse me how the furore exposed the fragility of the lip service paid to environmental concerns. To my knowledge nobody is disputing that the measures will save energy, though there have been plenty of arguments about how much. Instead the arguments have centred on the cost-benefit analysis (How much will it take to change all those signs?) or on the measures as the best option (Driver training would save much more fuel than a blanket speed reduction) and on the opportunity to complain about the political ineptness or opportunism of the Government.
Neither Al Gore nor Radio 5 seem to have worked their magic yet then?