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Posted at 2:12 PM ET, 02/25/2011

Spain to lower speeds as oil prices rise

By Associated Press

MADRID -- Spain will lower highway speed limits, cut train ticket prices and use more biofuel under an emergency energy-saving initiative because of soaring oil prices brought on by unrest in Libya, an official said Friday.

The Libyan rebellion has sharply reduced exports from the oil-rich nation, and about 13 percent of the oil Spain consumes comes from Libya.

Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Spain's energy supply is not in danger, despite shutdowns by oil companies operating in Libya, but the national energy bill will rise significantly because of the sharply higher petroleum prices.

"This is what happens when we depend so much on oil. It is normal that the price goes up when there are problems," said 28 year-old student Pablo Regadera.

Spain's energy saving measures will be approved formally next week and take effect on a temporary basis March 7.

The maximum speed limit on Spanish highways is 75 miles per hour but will drop to 68 mph. The government will rush to print new signs to alert people of the change.

"We are going to go a bit slower and in exchange for that we are going to consume less gasoline and therefore pay less money," Perez Rubalcaba said. For instance, he said, a car running on gasoline will use 15 percent less fuel at the new, lower speed limit.

Madrid taxi driver Carlos Cuellar Benito, 47, doubted the measure would make any difference. "I think that it is nonsense. A change of [7 miles per hour] is not going to save anything, it is not logical."

The government also will order a 5 percent reduction in fares on commuter and middle-distance trains by the state railway system RENFE.

"We are going to wage a major campaign to promote public transport, which is always welcome but which in this case is absolutely necessary for us," he said.

Finally, oil companies will also have to add more bio-fuel to the gasoline and diesel they produce -- from the current mandatory 5.8 percent proportion, up to 7 percent, the deputy prime minister said.

What do you think of Spain's move? Would you support such action in the United States?

By Associated Press  | February 25, 2011; 2:12 PM ET
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The idea that a blanket speed limit will inherently save fuel is simply wrong. There is no one speed at which vehicles are most efficient. The best way to get your car's best fuel efficiency is to drive it at the slowest speed in which you can realistically drive in the highest gear. ("Realistically" meaning a speed at which your engine won't lug and at which you won't have to downshift every time you go up every minor hill or pull out to pass someone.) It's true that most cars on the road with six-speed transmissions will hit that sweet spot somewhere in the range of 100 km/h to 110 km/h, and from that standpoint Spain's proposed new 110 km/h speed limit isn't so outrageous, but I think the state government in Texas had the right approach when they enacted an 80 mph speed limit on portions of I-10 and I-20. When asked whether that would result in more fuel being consumed, they said, in essence, "It may, but (a) drivers don't have to go 80 if they don't want to and (b) if drivers choose to spend more money on fuel, that's their decision and we don't think it's the government's business to tell them how to spend their money."

As far as trying that sort of thing in the US goes, I believe it's already been tried and it proved to be an utter failure because everybody ignored the arbitrary federal speed limit.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 25, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

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