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Spain Cuts Speed Limit to Save Gas, Economy, and Carbon

Spain Cuts Speed Limit to Save Gas, Economy, and Carbon

In a bid to save money on energy costs, Spain cut the national top speed limit from 75 mph to 68 mph this week. In addition to the expense, there was concern over the stability of the oil supply in the wake of unrest in Libya, which supplies 13% of oil used by Spain. By cutting oil imports, the Spanish government hopes to save money — with projected savings of 2.3 billion Euros (about $3.2 billion) — and at the same time reduce annual CO2 emissions by 12.5 million tons.

The reduced speed limit will be in effect at least until the end of June; it is part of the socialist government’s efforts to cut the nation’s energy bill by five percent. Other policy measure include reducing the price of commuter train tickets and incentives to change old tires, switch to low-energy light bulbs, and hire energy use reduction consultants.

The BBC quotes Ismael Sanz, an economist at Madrid’s King Juan Carlos University, explaining the issue in terms of economics: “There is a transfer of income from families to foreign countries, that’s the problem. If people are devoting a higher share of their income to imported fuel, then they’re spending less buying Spanish products, going for tapas. That ends up costing jobs; everything is affected.”

The speed limit reduction has been met with suspicion and criticism in several quarters. Some claim that the targeted energy use reductions are unlikely to be achieved, and have even accused the government of raising the limit simply in order to raise money through speeding tickets. Others warned that the speed limit reductions will harm the economic recovery.

The Spanish people are not the only ones suffering with high gas prices.  Even before the latest violence in Libya, European motorists paid between $6.21 and $9.08 per gallon in mid-February 2011. Gas prices have reached record levels in the U.K. and Australia. U.S. gas prices rose to $3.51 a gallon on Tuesday, with the AP reporting that gas prices are up 39.7 cents in the last month and are 76.4 cents a gallon higher than one year ago.

Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa and the hydrocarbon industry is a major player in its economy, producing 1.8 million barrels a day in 2010.  Unrest throughout the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia, may well indicate that prices will continue to rise in the face of political uncertainty. But even if things were to calm down in that volatile area, surely this is yet another wake up call to policy makers? The time to cut carbon-based energy consumption is now; there is no single solution, but maybe reducing speed limits would be a start to a more comprehensive policy of energy consumption reduction at federal, state and local levels.

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Photo: A Spanish Highway
 Š Iņigo Quintanilla Gomez via iStockphoto

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7:15AM PDT on May 31, 2011

good move

10:12PM PDT on May 16, 2011

Now that's a great initiative! Way to go!

1:13PM PDT on May 1, 2011

great news

7:04AM PDT on Mar 21, 2011

Hmmm, interesting. It could very well work. Maybe the U.S. will come up with something to combat rising gas prices here.

8:02PM PDT on Mar 17, 2011

Even if we don't save energy we will save lives.

6:01PM PDT on Mar 17, 2011

Good for them, I wish them the best. Those of scoffing about this and how little a difference it will make, (ahem, Amber M.) I'd advise you to be careful since if things keep up the way they are, the US may very well be in for changes similar to this or even more drastic since the economy is in the crapper. You never know.

Vera Y., Spain is more advanced than people care to realize. Maybe it's because Spain is a Hispanic country and people are so anti-Hispanic these days. I wonder.

10:15PM PDT on Mar 16, 2011

well, at last, a good one for Spain, they r so retrograde , it is hard to beleive it

7:07AM PDT on Mar 16, 2011

and ths the care2 party for span begins. *put son party hat*

6:01AM PDT on Mar 16, 2011

go Spain

4:20AM PDT on Mar 16, 2011

Excellent but simple idea to save money, fuel, and carbon emmisions, as well as lower fatalities. All countries should take this simple step.
Here in Australia, the maximum speed on most country roads is 100 KPH (60 MPH) and 110 KPH on freeways and motorways (68 mph)

Around suburban residential streets the limit is being lowered from 60 kph (37 mph) to 50 kph (32 mph) (and 40 kph near schools) just to combat the road toll but it must help with carbon too.

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