St. Lawrence University
Laurel Hurd, St. Lawrence University Class of 2016 - Summer Research Fellow
July 22, 2015


Nuclear power, fracking, petroleum, carbon emissions, offshore drilling, oil spills, threatened species, land conservation and deforestation are just a few of Spain’s environmental concerns. According to Trading Economics, the population size of Spain is 46.4 million people, increasing 53% in the last 50 years. With more people there becomes less available land and more energy consumption and waste production. Due to advocacy from national environmental groups, such as Ecologistas shown above, the country has invested in more sources of renewable energy, but it still has a long way to go. Spain has seven nuclear reactors generating a fifth of its overall electricity. While the benefits to nuclear energy are clear, people have long disputed over the safety and waste of nuclear plants. As one can see from these stickers, the anti-nuclear movement is a strong one. Looking back towards a couple of mishaps with nuclear waste, which eventually led to the closure of the Santa Maria de Garoña plant, many people feel strongly about phasing out nuclear power to replace it with safer, renewable alternatives. Options such as wind energy have been proving successful in Spain, with an installed wind capacity of 22,986.5MW of power in 2014, fourth in the world after the US, Germany and China (Asociación Empresarial Eólica). 

The environment, like many other aspects of Spain, has taken a hit with the economic crisis of 2008. Corruption scandals and financial debt have led to more relaxed environmental regulation laws, which have allowed greedy corporate officials to carry out otherwise non-sustainable projects. Thousands of construction projects were approved during the housing boom prior to 2008, tearing up precious coastal land. During the peak of the boom, Spain was building as many as a million houses a year (The New Yorker, 2013). When the crisis hit and banks and construction tycoons went bankrupt, the projects were stopped midway leaving unfinished concrete covered coastlines. According to Convention On Biological Diversity, “Spain is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world and considered one of the most biodiverse countries in the European Union… In the last decades, Spanish biodiversity has suffered a significant decrease, with between 40-60% of assessed species included in some threatened category.” Not only has poor regulation lead to environmental destruction, but to make matters worse, it has also caused a spike in costs for electricity. Between 2006 and 2012, Spain’s electricity bills have risen 60%, putting them amongst the highest in all of Europe (El País, 2014). Spain’s current energy system is unsustainable for both the environment and the Spanish people’s wallets.