Fracking in Spain

In Spain, fracking divides the country between a central Government which considers shale gas as an opportunity and local populations that don’t accept the environmental and health risks of fracking.

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Description

Spain is the second largest country in Europe with 46 million people. Its history is very old and complex which explains its current political system

which explains its current political system. The Spanish monarchy is represented by King and the territory is divided between different autonomous regions with local authorities and a central Madrid-based government.

Energy situation

Despite the very intense sun and strong wind in Spain, this country depends largely on hydrocarbon importation. Nuclear and fossil energies are still important in Spain and after the economic crisis in 2008, public investment in green energy was reduced.

Shale Gas situation

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                              Anti-fracking painting in village situated in a drilling area

There are two important oil and gas reserves in the North and South of Spain and the Government has awarded licences to drill the areas and measure their hydrocarbon resources. According to the pro-fracking lobby, that constitutes an opportunity to have hydrocarbon independence but this perspective is contested by the anti-fracking lobby and the reserves quoted judged exaggerated.

Regulation

In October 2013, the Government initiated the Hydrocarbon Exploration Act with an incentive tax for shale gas and oil exploration to local territories and landowners. The objective was to find support from local authorities and the population concerned. In spite of that, some local authorities in Spain decided to ban fracking: Cantabria, La Rioja, Navarra, Catalonia, Andalucía, etc. But the Government contested each text in the central Constitutional Court and the judges decreed that the regions don’t have the power to regulate fracking.

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                                                Map of Spain with local fracking banning

Current debate

In December 2015, the General Election hasn’t made it possible to agree a new majority in the Parliament and a further ballot will be in June 2016.  The fracking issue isn’t part of the electorate debate. However, in March 2016, some deputies proposed an anti-fracking bill, the first step before a debate of this text in the Parliament. The acting Minister of Energy opposes this bill and considers fracking as a “question of national security”.

In June 2016, a fracking company announced it is not proceeding with six of its licenses.  So, the question of fracking in Spain is still very uncertain.

Published on GEAI website, June 2016