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Regional Authorities Resist Spain's Effort to Save Fuel
03 March 2011 @ 14:19

MADRID — Spain’s national government is in a standoff with the authorities in charge of the country’s two largest cities over who should pay for its plans to lower the country’s fuel bill.

Last Friday, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, a deputy prime minister, announced that Spain would cut its highway speed limit to 110 kilometers per hour from 120, or 68 miles per hour from 74, to save gasoline in response to a surge in crude oil prices provoked by fears of a supply crisis because of upheavals in Libya and other Arab states.

As part of its energy-saving measures — the first such response by a European government to the turmoil in the Arab world — the government also said it would order a 5 percent reduction in fares on commuter and middle-distance trains to encourage more use of public transportation.

Spain is heavily dependent on imported oil, about 13 percent of which comes from Libya. The changes are due to be formally approved on Friday and take effect on March 7.

But the regional governments in Madrid and Catalonia, which is home to Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city, are refusing to shoulder the financial burden of a cut in train fare revenue at a time when the operating costs of public transportation are rising. Madrid and Catalonia have accumulated billions of euros of debt. Catalonia was also among the regions instructed this week by the Spanish finance minister, Elena Salgado, to tighten fiscal discipline after failing to meet its 2010 budget deficit target.

Read the full article at the NY Times

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