In the face of an unprecedented energy crisis, the Spanish government is proposing to reduce motorway speed limits as a part of a number of measures to reduce the country's energy consumption and its reliance on foreign imports.
With the war in Ukraine continuing to rage, there is an increasing threat that energy supplies to the EU could be restricted further with Brussels also potentially banning all Russian oil and gas supplies.
In anticipation of the restrictions, Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera has drafted a number of measures to tackle the issue to help consumers reduce their energy consumption while saving money.
One of the measures which could be approved by the Council of Ministers in the coming days will be to reduce the current 120 Km/h motorway speed limit to 110 Km/h, a move the government believes would drastically reduce the amount of petrol and diesel used by Spanish motorists.
If the move goes ahead, it won't be the first time that Spain has decreased the motorway speed limits in an attempt to limit its consumption.
In light of the Libyan crisis of 2011, between March 7 and June 30, the country trialled the very same speed reductions. As a result, more than 6,000 traffic speed signs had to be modified at a cost of around 250,000 euros.
The move which was muted to reduce petrol consumption by 15% and diesel by 11% saving 1.4 billion euros, was initially met with criticism with many claiming that the cost to modify the signs on more than 8,800 kilometres of the country’s roads would end up cancelling out any potential savings that would be made.
Other studies suggested that the savings would be closer to 8%.
In those four months, gasoline consumption was actually reduced by 8% and diesel consumption by even less, which according to the government resulted in 450 million euros of savings. However, according to the RACC car club, a more realistic figure would have been between 200 and 300 million euros.
According to the IEA (International Energy Agency), reducing the maximum speed on roads from 120 km/h to 110 km/h would save around 430,000 barrels of oil per day, some 157 million barrels in industrialised countries and 17 billion euros in total savings.
In the words of the Treasury and Ecological Transition executive in 2011, led by Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, "it had been a complete success."
Rubalcaba then immediately announced that they would rescind the measure. This was greeted with scepticism. After all, if it had been so successful, reducing consumption, lowering the number of accidents by around 15% and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, why abandon the measure?
At the time Rubalcaba said that it was only “a transitory measure”.
However, many believe the real reason for aborting the plan was due to a fall in VAT revenues due to lower fuel consumption. Others believed that the measure was pulled to appease voters.