By on March 7, 2011

The Spanish government’s crusade against cars continues this week as the national speed limit has been cut from 120 km/h (about 75MPH) to 110 km/h (about 68 MPH). The Spanish government claims the move is temporary (they say it will last until “at least” June), and that it will save some 15% on the country’s fuel bills. The opposition reckons the number is closer to five percent, asking Autocar the rhetorical question

What next? Will the government make people go to sleep earlier to reduce their consumption of light?

Spain’s many high-quality roads and relatively low traffic have made it something of a motoring destination for Northern Europeans (especially the British), but since most European nations allow speeds of up to 130 km/h on their freeways, some of that cachet could well be lost. The opposition reckons the government reduced Spain’s speed limit as much to raise revenue as save fuel. Could losses in the tourism sector cancel any revenue benefits?

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19 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: Tightening The Belt Edition...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What next? Will the government make people go to sleep earlier to reduce their consumption of light?

    Isn’t this exactly what happens when governments mess about the daylight savings time?  At least reducing the speed limit actually saves energy, where screwing with DST doesn’t seem to do a damn thing, other than cause accidents, piss off people who have to worry about some brain-dead programmers’ date handling and make politicians look like they’ve accomplished something.

    Did I mention I hate time zones?  As far as I’m concerned, the whole world can function on GMT and I’ll just get my kid to school at 12:30pm and come into work at 1:00pm.  Does it matter what “1:00pm” actually means?  No, not one damn bit.

    Side note: I’m an avowed pinko, so take this as you will.  While there’s a lot of things I don’t like about George W. Bush’s term in office, in terms of “things that Administration did that directly affect me and do piss me off”, changing the DST rules is number one.  The DHS and TSA nonsense is well, well down the list.

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      DST is good.  Without DST, most businesses and people would still start their days earlier in the summer and later in the winter.  But instead of all changing at once, there would be haphazard changeovers over a couple of months in the spring and again in the fall.  You’d go to pick up your dry cleaning after work in the spring and discover that your cleaners is still on winter hours and closed 30 minutes ago.  Train and bus schedules that coordinated would suddenly no longer coordinate.
      The accident rate does go up for the first few days after time change.  But the accident rate is also higher when commute hours are in the dark.  If you look at the entire year, I think you’d find that the total accident rate is lower by changing for DST.
      We live on a tilting planet, and DST is the best way of dealing with it.
       

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      psarhjinian: You never cease to surprise and impress me, even though I’m on ‘the other side of the aisle’.  I agree with you on this one.
       
      The most bizarre thing about DST is that several areas in the US choose not to observe it, further adding to the confusion.  It’s a relic of the 1970s that should go away.

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      gslippy, DST is not a relic of the 1970s.  It was first used in WW I.  Before the 1880s, there wasn’t standard time observed by most people; if they used clocks at all, they set them to noon when the sun was highest and that was it.  So it was only about 30 years of keeping the same time year ’round before DST was adopted.  DST approximates what people do naturally, get up when it gets light.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      DST is a crutch.  Heck, time zones are a crutch.
       
      I spent a few years doing datacentre work, to the point where I could easily “think” in UTC because it makes coordinating work at several sites easier.  My day started at 13:00 UTC and I left to go home at or around 21:00.  That “13:00″ was 8:00am in my local time zone didn’t really trouble me at all.  Heck, it made things easier when I was talking to people in Cork, Bangalore and Sydney because we didn’t have to try and figure out which “when” someone was talking about.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @kkt: OK, then, DST is a relic of WWI which needs to go.  “Getting up when it’s light” is OK for an agricultural-based society, but the US is definitely not that any longer.  So why don’t the nations of Africa and Asia observe it?

      I’d argue that the confusion generated by DST is worse than the problem of functioning in the dark.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    According to this, it was the liberal congress that pushed DST

    http://spiralbound.net/files/2007/04/daylightwarming.jpg

  • avatar
    Steven02

    It could causes losses in tourism which makes me think this isn’t there to write more tickets, but to actually save fuel prices.  I much as I like going 70 mph here in the US, I am sure that a day not too far in the future of 5.00 gas will change this back to 55mph.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Lowering the speed limit to save gas is largely ineffectual. There is no proof that lowering the speed limit actually causes people to drive slower.

    And if gas does go to $5 a gallon, why should we lower the speed limit to 55 mph? If some people want to drive at that pace, they should stay in the slow lane. If the rest of us would rather enjoy the benefits of higher speed and use the extra gas…so what?

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Add a police officer with a laser gun and surprisingly people will drive slower.
       
      Slower speed –> less gas use –> less demand –> lower prices & lower imports
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      “Slower speed –> less gas use –> less demand –> lower prices & lower imports”
      Unless you can put those cops with laser guns throughout China, India, etc., enforcement here in the west will have very little effect on demand for oil or the market price of oil. As an internationally traded commodity, oil prices are driven by global demand, although this latest goosing of the price of oil is more a matter of speculation by hedge funds and other parties looking to make a quick buck off of current events (even tho those current events don’t materially affect global supply). You can thank those intrepid financiers for siphoning cash out of your pocket as you fill up this week.
      As the global economy picks up, so will demand, regardless of speed limits anywhere, and prices will rise.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Add a police officer with a laser gun and surprisingly people will drive slower.
       
      Many highways here are still posted 55 mph.  I pass half a dozen cashiers in blue every day.  Waving the next victim over before the previous one has even merged back off the shoulder.
       
      And a half a mile later all four lanes are right back up to the 75 mph they were when they crested the hill and saw the dirty thief to begin with.
       
      Maybe $1000 tickets and mandatory court appearances ala fascist Virginia would change that.  But for a $150 tax that will happen to someone else (until it happens to us) it just doesn’t have any effect.
       
      The $4.50 gas panic a couple years back dropped cruising speeds by 10 mph or so.  Now that the psychological floor is already upwards of $3 I’m skeptical it’ll do it again.  We’ll see this summer.
       

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      As ClutchCarGo has explained, it doesn’t work that way in the real world. Having an officer stand there with a radar gun may raise revenue, and spur sales of radar detectors and CB radios, but it does nothing to lower the cost of a gallon of gasoline. We seen this movie before, circa the late 1970s…

      If people want to slow down, let them. Just as long as they stay in the slow lane.

      And I’m always amused by the idea that just because we can’t SEE people taking steps to save gasoline, we think that they aren’t doing anything. Perhaps they are saving in other ways – for example, by consolidating trips or even simply staying home. Or maybe they bought a fuel-efficient car in the first place, so $5-a-gallon doesn’t automatically send them to the poor house. Not everyone commutes in a Silverado or a Land Cruiser.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    When the first oil shock hit in March 1973, I was still in the air force, gas went from 24-25.9¢ per gallon to 31-32.9¢ per gallon literally overnight. I immediately cut my speed to 55 mph – I don’t know why I chose that number, but I was ahead of the game. Later, in early 1974 when things really got stupid and the recession hit, the gov’t suggested a 10 gallon per week limit, and although it went nowhere, I tried that and it worked for me for a little while, but cars were all pretty much gas hogs at the time, and you needed much more than that to get around, at least for me. Cutting the speed does cut fuel costs, but you pay for it in time if you’re traveling anywhere, and in commuting, the slow drivers will get slower. What’s the answer? Flying cars. We were supposed to have them by now.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Spain’s government is desperate to act like it is doing something – anything. The nation has so many debacles (i.e. unemployment over 20%, a collapsing real estate bubble, debt it is certain to default on), and the government has many embarrassments (such as the massive, disastrous, job-destroying push into alternative energy from which it is furiously backpedalling).

    So, here come the micro-initiatives… an endless series of trivial, empty gestures aimed at creating a false impression that the government is still in the driver’s seat and quality of life is improving.
     

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Spain has always had very high unemployment (officially) and it doesn’t have that much debt but you re right that they have a gigantic real estate bubble but this is one of those things that can be solved by pushing it forward as inflation will solve it eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      ps. it maybe be empty gestures but they at least got the 110km stickers ready. In my country they can’t even do that right.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I’m of the opinion that this move has much more to do with the economic situation in spain than just saving gas. 

    If wages and employment are both static and below traditional, or desired, levels, then tax-income will also be lower than needed.

    If people are forced to spend more on gas, they will be spending more on the ‘external economy’, where the money goes offshore – in this case to the crude-oil producers.  This means less remains to be spent within the internal (spanish domestic) economy.

    No jobs are created when people buy more liters of gas at a higher price at each fill-up.  But the other kinds of purchases which create jobs in shops, or service industry, etc., can’t happen when high consumption at high prices consumes the disposable income of a stagnant salary.

    Spain as a member of the EEC also doesn’t have the option of printing more money to cover that which is going off-shore (as the US is able to do – but for how long?)  So, until spain can attract more FDI and increase exports, or tourism, it has to try and keep cash circulating in its economy.

    One way to do this is to reduce fuel consumption by reducing speed.

    If the economy in spain slows down due to people spending less, and companies respond by cutting jobs, spain which is close to the edge when it comes to paying off its government bond-holders, may sail into the sea of default.

    And to be honest, the speed reduction in spain is not that bad… much of germany has 130 kph limts and here in switzerland we have a limit of 120 kph. 

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Never thought of higher speed limits causing more tourism.  Might be another good argument for raising them.  If I could get to Seattle in 3 hours instead of 4.5, I might go more often.
     
    If people want to pay the higher prices to drive faster let them.  If you don’t, then drive slower.  Heck, in some ways, the faster drivers would subsidize the slower ones, since they’d pay more in fuel taxes.
     
    The problem is the central control.  A single solution generated by the government that is somehow supposed to work for everyone and then rarely does.
     
    Sill anyway, you know they’re gonna get the money they need from Germany….  The Euro is ridiculous.
     
     


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