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article imageLanzarote town hall rallying support against oil exploration

By Anne Sewell     Aug 14, 2013 in Environment
Arrecife - The Spanish multinational, Repsol, is planning to explore for oil 40 kilometers off the coast of Lanzarote in Spain's Canary Islands, and they have admitted there is a "moderate" risk of an oil spill.
5.8 million tourists have visited the Canary Islands so far in 2013, which makes it the second-most popular Spanish destination after Catalonia.
Administration on the island of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, has voiced its rejection in no uncertain terms of Repsol's plans to start drilling off the island's coast. This is especially in light of a report published by the energy company itself which outlined the “worst case scenario” consequences of the operation.
In a statement on their website, Lanzarote Town Hall said:
"The oil consortium recognizes one of the most important risks highlighted systematically by those opposed to the exploration project: the inherent threat of spills washing ashore onto the Canary Islands' beaches."
Europa Press reported last Friday that Repsol has since tried to dismiss the whole issue, accusing Lanzarote's government of “trying to generate alarmism."
On top of this, Spain's Industry, Energy and Tourism Minister, José Manuel Soria, who is himself from the Canary Islands, has voiced support for Repsol's plans. According to Soria, this would have a similar effect to that oil drilling had on the Middle East's tourism industry.
Soria told a press conference last Thursday, “It’s not only compatible, it could also boost tourism.”
According to Repsol, the two planned wells could yield as much as 100,000 barrels of oil per day and that this would cater for ten percent of Spain’s hydrocarbon needs.
They argue that the chance of a blowout is 1 in 50,000 and they stress that adequate safety and prevention measures would be in place to prevent an environmental catastrophe.
The project was initially approved in 2001, and then annulled in 2004, after facing widespread condemnation.
It reared it's head again in 2012, and the Spanish Government once again authorized the project. They stated that it would be of benefit to ease the country’s dependence on crude oil imports, which currently account for 99 percent of total supplies.
However, the Canary Islands regional government responded by mounting a legal challenge against the drilling project. Islanders fear that the project could threaten the much-needed tourism industry, which accounts for most of their income.
Demonstrations were held in Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and Tenerife against Repsol's plans with several thousand people participating.
Greenpeace was also heard to issue a statement denouncing the “inherently dangerous” nature of deep sea explorations, reminding of the BP catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico which is still having dire effects on the environment.
To the islanders of the Canaries, it is a risk just not worth taking:
Papagayo Beach  Lanzarote  Canary Islands (Spain).
Papagayo Beach, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain).
Luc Viatour
Other scenes of Lanzarote can be viewed here.
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