Sunday, October 29, 2006

Environment / Tobacco sales / Road accidents

The European Union’s environment commission has issued national figures for emissions. They make pretty grim reading, especially where Spain is concerned. It is predicted that by 2010, Spain will have exceeded its 1990 levels by 51%; the increase permitted under Kyoto is 15%. This is attributed largely to extreme weather, for which read heat, and the burning of fossil fuels. Though parts of Spain do get very cold in winter, the general requirement for fuel-burning is to run summer (and winter) air-conditioning (heating) units. The level of demand can get so great that there are outages - as occurred in Mallorca during the roasting summer of 2003.

There is something absurd about the environmental contradictions here. The nature reserve of Albufera abuts Alcúdia, being contained within the municipalities of Muro and Sa Pobla. This is an area of ecological sensitivity. The new industrial estate is being built on its Alcúdia border. As previously mentioned, environmental measures for the new estate will be - so we are told - more or less exemplary. Fair enough. Yet next to the site of the industrial estate is a whacking great power station, a power station that is run on coal; coal that is transported in dirty trucks from the port of Alcúdia. I make no claim to being any sort of expert, but I cannot help but feel that some economic re-thinking could come up with a solution to power most dwellings and other establishments with direct solar power. One thing Mallorca does have a lot of is sun; the reason why so much air-con is needed.

There is also an issue regarding housing stock. Much of it is simply not designed well enough or insulated sufficiently (if at all) to combat the winters. Even when it is quite warm outside, houses can be freezing inside. Wood-burners are one thing, but otherwise the need is for oil, electricity or - the most ridiculous of all - butane gas. Which leads on to the preponderance of space-heaters. Cafés with terraces use these through the winter. Lord alone knows what damage they do.

Still at least the authorities are trying. There are currently subsidies on offer from the Balearic Government to trade in old appliances - fridges, washing machines etc. 80 euros discount for acquiring a Class A energy-efficient replacement. No mention of air-con units though. One positive thing - at least there is no need for any heating yet. Indeed the duvets have had to be put back in the wardrobes; it is still very warm.

Further to the report on a possible amendment to the tobacco-sales regulations, the central government’s Balearics representative has hinted that there could be “measures” taken against the Balearic Government if it goes ahead with its proposed amendment.

And on the roads ... the death toll on the main roads has gone down since the introduction of the licence points system, but the number of pedestrians and motorcyclists killed has gone up this year - quite markedly. No doubt this is partly down to rank bad driving, as with the death of the Thomson reps back in May, but motorcyclists (and cyclists) can be every bit as much at fault. The trick of “under-taking” by motorcyclists is an accident waiting to happen, and the flagrant disregard of just about every rule of the road by cyclists ... oh, don’t get me started.

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