Nearly two months since the Spanish navy recklessly rammed and injured peaceful protestors who were standing up to Repsol, the Spanish oil giant announced their decision to scrap their oil exploration off the Canary Islands’ coast.
In so doing, however, they’ve exposed the Spanish government to be fossil fuel sycophants while leaving questions unanswered about the company’s conduct during their oil exploration operation in the pristine waters of the Spanish islands.
Two of the auxiliary ships that were supporting the drilling platform Rowan Renaissance quietly left the area in December. No surprise there, support vessels generally move around without much fanfare. What is surprising is how taken aback the Spanish government was and then how they reacted:
Today, the Spanish Minister of Industry, José Manuel Soria, said the Spanish government will fine Repsol for backing away from exploratory drilling in the region.
Repsol still hasn’t properly explained why they decided to leave the Canary Islands’ waters. The only piece of communication has been a press release where Repsol assured that the explorations found minimal amounts of natural gas. Still, no reason has been given as to why the planned second round of drilling has been cancelled.
In August 2014, permission was granted to do exploratory drilling near the tourist paradise.
In mid-November the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise set out to confront the Repsol exploratory drilling vessel, occupy the proposed drilling site, and engage in a peaceful protest. What ensued was a dramatic confrontation resulting in the injury of Greenpeace activists as their inflatables were rammed and run over by an overzealous Spanish navy.
The Spanish government’s support for Repsol’s drilling is so absolute that, not just the Spanish navy protected the company, as opposed to the local coast guard, but the Transport Ministry intervened and detained the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise in the port of Lanzarote. They allowed the ship to leave only after Greenpeace paid a 50,000 euro bail. Today, the captain is still facing legal consequences.
Repsol, and by proxy the Spanish government’s, drilling plans off the coast of the Canary Islands violates certain laws and European directives which are currently being investigated by the EU Authorities.
Concerns have been raised about how Repsol’s nine weeks exploratory drilling having already caused damage. The public has a right to know. The Spanish government and Repsol need to account for this.
As for the Industry Minister, José Manuel Soria, he got the embarrassment he deserves.
Not only did he not listen to the scientists, environmentalists, and to the thousands of citizens of the Canary Islands and of the rest of Spain, who protested against the drilling. He also failed to notice that there is another kind of reality in the Canary Islands. On the island of El Hierro there is a pioneer project showing that it is possible to rely 100% on renewable energy sources.
This is the kind of model that can really help Spain move from fossil fuels and to inject some good energy into its economy.
Read more about renewable energy in Spain here.
Julio Barea is Climate & Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Spain.
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