Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Gunboat diplomacy alive and well within the EU

August 9, 2013

Spain and England have a long history of going to war against each other but things have been quiet for some time. The last time Great Britain went to war against Spain was probably in the War of the Third Coalition from 1803-1806. The Spanish State under General Franco was officially non-belligerent during World War II.

David Cameron is still looking for his war like Thatcher found the Falklands and Tony Blair cynically used Iraq. Gibraltar is causing much sabre rattling and British warships have started rushing about (they haven’t got much else to do). But Cameron cannot really expect that he can engineer a suitable casualty-free, armed conflict around Gibraltar which can help him in the next election.

Daily Mail:


HMS Westminster will set sail for Gibraltar on Monday -EPA via Daily Mail

A Royal Navy rapid reaction force is to set sail for Gibraltar on  Monday as tensions over the Rock continue to rise.

Ten vessels including the aircraft  carrier Illustrious, two frigates and support ships are heading to the waters off Gibraltar as part of an annual exercise.

But defence officials have revealed that three of them – the frigate Westminster and two support vessels – will call in at the British sovereign base at Gibraltar for three days, beginning on August 19.

In a show of force, the warships will practise ‘a range of operations’ including ‘deterring adversaries’.

Although diplomatic relations between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar have plunged into the deep freeze, the Ministry of Defence insisted that the mission, called Cougar ’13, is a long-planned exercise.

But senior government sources conceded that the timing is convenient since it will reassure the people of Gibraltar after Spain imposed draconian border checks in a  dispute over fishing.

And while the deployment could have been delayed to avoid upsetting the Spanish government, it was not.

A Whitehall source said: ‘The timing is not unhelpful. We could  have decided to call it off or divert it  away from Gibraltar to avoid offending  the Spanish. But there was absolutely no question of that

It is August and it is silly season and European Parliaments are on their summer vacations and politicians are afraid of not being in the public eye.

Stealing by the state from depositors in Cyprus is a dangerous precedent for all weak banks in the Euro zone

March 23, 2013

A one off tax is not a regular tax but just confiscation. When done by a State it is Grand Theft. It is some kind of nationalisation where some selected private assets are appropriated. Whatever it is called, it is just plain stealing from bank depositors. When banks are weak or badly managed it is the owners of the bank who should be held both responsible and accountable. But to blatantly and arbitrarily just “confiscate” a part of some of the depositors holdings  is a dangerous precedent.

If this is what happens in Cyprus and seemingly with the acquiescence –  if not the encouragement – of the Euro zone then it bodes ill for all depositors in weak Euro zone banks or banks in weak Euro zone countries. Cyprus can set a precedent of what is acceptable behaviour in the Euro zone. Certainly the banks and the owners will like this. After all it shifts risk from the bank’s equity to the bank’s depositors. And for profligate countries it provides a cover for stealing the money of large depositors.

For depositors having more than €100,000 in Cyprus it is already too late. Robbery by the State has been sanctioned by the European Union including Germany. Rationalising such a move by saying it is to get at black Russian money is disingenuous. If this is acceptable in Cyprus today then it may well be acceptable for banks – and not just the State – to confiscate their customer’s savings whenever an “emergency” arises.

For those with substantial deposits  – and not just over €100,000 – in Greece or Spain or Italy or Ireland it is probably high time to get out.

El Hierro quietens down and effects of undersea eruptions are visible from space

October 14, 2011

From iweather

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying on board NASA’s Aqua satellite captured green stains on the surface of the sea to the south of El Hierro on Friday. (MODIS image here)

MODIS image of El Hierro on the afternoon of Friday 14 October 2011

MODIS image of El Hierro on the afternoon of Friday 14 October 2011: image iweather

In the above image two large green stains are visible on the surface of Las Calmas Sea. In addition to the stains, officials from Spain’s Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN) have reported a strong smell of sulphur and dead fish floating on the surface.

The IGN said the large stains emanated from two fissures on the sea bed, approximately 700-1000 metres below the surface.  Scientists say they are hopeful this week’s eruptions will reduce pressure and the potential for eruptive activity occurring on the 285 square kilometre island. …

.. A ROV (Remotely Operated ‘underwater’ Vehicle) is scheduled to arrive in El Hierro on Monday to undertake a seabed study.

The eruptions take place amidst an unprecedented earthquake swarm in El Hierro. The number of earthquakes recorded since July 17, 2011 on El Hierro has now exceeded 10,500.  The number and intensity of earthquakes has reduced signifcantly in the past 48 hours, however.

Aerial Video Of Sea Surface Stains 



New undersea volcanic eruptions move closer to El Hierro

October 13, 2011

Earthquakes and volcanos in the Canary Islands cause concern because studies have shown that if they struck El Hierro or La Palma — just north of El Hierro – there is a possibility that a large part of El Hierro island would slide into the ocean and trigger a huge tsunami that could travel across the Atlantic hitting the eastern seaboard of the US in six hours.

Earlier posts are here and here.

Recent earthquake swarms on El Hierro - image: Instituto Geográfico Nacional

Underwater Volcanic Eruptions Edge Closer To El Hierro Mainland 

Two new underwater volcanic eruptions have occurred off the south coast of El Hierro, the smallest and southernmost island in the Canary Islands.

Seismologists say two separate fissures have been identified less than 3.7 kilometres and 2.8 kilometres from La Restinga, a town on the southeast of the island. Authorities have detected a sulphur odour in the area while dead fish have also been spotted floating on the surface of Las Calmas Sea.

The fresh eruptions occurred 48 hours after a subsea eruption, Spain’s first since an eruption on La Palma in 1971, occurred approximately 5 kilometres from La Restinga. The town’s 570 residents were subsequently evacuated as a precautionary measure in the event of volcanic activity moving closer to the island.

The eruptions take place amidst an unprecedented earthquake swarm in El Hierro. The number of earthquakes recorded since July 17, 2011 on El Hierro has now exceeded 10,300.

Hierro, a shield volcano, has had a single historic eruption from the Volcan de Lomo Negro vent in 1793. The eruption lasted approximately one month and produced lava flows. …….

…. A Red Alert was issued by local authorities for the town of La Restinga, where local residents were evacuated from on Tuesday evening. Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and cabinet colleagues later attended an emergency briefing on the developing situation.

The IGN says all three of its seismic stations on El Hierro in the Canary Islands have registered a volcanic tremor of low frequency in the south of the island at La Restinga, the southern-most village in the Canaries.

Hundreds Remain Evacuated 

Roughly 600 people were evacuated Tuesday on Spain’s El Hierro Island in the Canaries due to the eruption of a nearby underwater volcano. They remained outside their homes on Wednesday as authorities feared an impending eruption. …. In a press release issued on Wednesday, the Canary Islands government said that although no specific changes have been observed since Tuesday evening, precautions remain in effect: “Among the security measures to ensure the safety of the population remains the designation by the Maritime Authority of Santa Cruz de Tenerife maritime exclusion zone which is closed to shipping, fishing, diving, sports or recreation in the area within a radius of four nautical miles from the tip of La Restinga.”

Ferry crossings to the island also remain suspended. People were, however, allowed to return to their homes on Wednesday under the protection of civil safety officials to retrieve medicines, clothing, and other necessities.

Some took to message boards on Tuesday and Wednesday claiming that a landslide in the Canary Islands could cause a mega-tsunami that would devastate the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. ……


Red alert issued for undersea volcanic eruption of the El Hierro island coast (Canary Islands)

October 11, 2011

From iweather:

El Hierro. Google Maps

El Hierro: Google maps via iweather

Spain’s Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN) confirmed on Tuesday that an underwater eruption has occurred five kilometres off the southern coastline of El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Island. The eruption is Spain’s first since the eruption in 1971 of the Teneguía volcano on the island of La Palma (Canary Islands).

The IGN says all three of its seismic stations on El Hierro in the Canary Islands have registered a volcanic tremor of low frequency in the south of the island at La Restinga, the southern-most village in the Canaries.  The estimated 537 residents of the town were summonsed to a local football field on Tuesday afternoon to be briefed on evacuation procedures.

A Red Alert has since been issued by local authorities for the town. A notice posted on the Emergencia El Hierro website on Tuesday evening stated: “Phase pre-eruptive. It involves the initiation of a preventive evacuation. Make yourself available to the authorities.”

Scientists from IGN and CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), meanwhile, have conducted a reconnaissance flight over the sea to the area south of the island, where they have located dead fish floating on the surface five kilometres from the coast. The dead fish were identified in an area where lower seismic magnitude occurred on October 9, at a depth of approximately 2 km.

The present volcanic activity is understood to be occurring at a depth of 600 metres (just under one kilometre) below sea level, in the Las Calmas sea. …..  English language newspaper reported: “The martime chief for the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife Antonio Padrón has issued a recomendation that boats should not sail closer than four miles off El Hierro. Divers have also been told to suspend all activities.” ….

The eruption takes place amidst an unprecedented earthquake swarm in El Hierro. The number of earthquakes recorded since July 17, 2011 on El Hierro has now exceeded 10,000. ……

El Hierro pictured from space by the MODIS satellite on Tuesday afternoon, 11 October

El Hierro pictured from space by the MODIS satellite on Tuesday afternoon, 11 October: image via iweather

More details at



Solid demand for bond issues by Spain, Portugal and Italy boost Euro

January 13, 2011
The euro sign; logotype and handwritten.

Image via Wikipedia

The countries are considered among those dragging down the Eurozone but strong demand for Portugese bonds on Wednesday was followed by solid demand for those issued by Spain and Italy today. Earlier this week both Japan and China had pledged to buy the bonds in Europe. Both countries have large cash reserves and are probably attracted by the higher yields but are also making a political statement in supporting the Eurozone. China is on a charm offensive and wishes to be seen to be reaching out to Greece and Portugal.


Spain has raised 3bn euros ($3.9bn; £2.5bn) in an auction of five-year government bonds. The average yield on the bonds was 4.542%, which was nearly one percentage point higher than the rate reached in the last auction in November. However, analysts had feared the yield would be even higher.

The debt sale, which follows a similar auction by Portugal on Wednesday, is soothing fears over the eurozone’s ability to service its debts. Michael Lister, strategist at West LB in Dusseldorf, said: “The figures look really good, it’s the perfect sequel to the Portugal auction yesterday.”

Wall Street Journal:

The Hong Kong dollar rose against the U.S. dollar Thursday as a successful bond auction in Portugal helped ease concerns about the euro zone’s debt problems, encouraging investors to shift funds from the U.S. currency to riskier assets.

Traders said gains in the local stock market will continue to boost demand for the Hong Kong dollar. They said they expect the U.S. dollar to trade between HK$7.7720 and HK$7.7780 Friday.

“Portugal’s bond auction temporarily eased concerns over European debt. Also, the U.S. dollar isn’t likely rise sharply ahead of (Chinese) President Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S. next week,” said a senior trader at a Chinese bank. Hu plans to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Jan. 19.

The Portuguese government sold EUR1.25 billion worth of bonds in an auction overnight, offering good news to investors worried an unsuccessful bond sale could signal tougher austerity measures in parts of the euro zone.

Financial Times:

Spain and Italy on Thursday followed Portugal by holding successful bond auctions, providing a glimmer of optimism in the eurozone debt crisis. Italy sold €6bn of five-year and 15-year debt while Spain issued €3bn in five-year bonds, but both countries were forced to pay higher interest rates than in previous auctions.

The three successful auctions this week from peripheral eurozone countries provide a small amount of breathing room in the crisis. But the elevated yields paid by all of them and their high funding needs mean that investors are still waiting for decisive action from European policymakers.

Italy sold €3bn of 15-year bonds at a yield of 5.06 per cent, up from 4.81 per cent at a previous auction in November. Likewise, the yield on €3bn of five-year debt rose from 3.24 per cent two months ago to 3.67 per cent. Both auctions were fully covered. Spain paid almost a percentage point more than it did in November with a five-year yield of 4.54 per cent.

So much for biodiversity!

November 16, 2010
Procambarus clarkii taken near a lake in Giron...

Red Swamp Crayfish: Image via Wikipedia

Spain is preparing to rid its shores of foreign species of plants and animals that are considered a danger to the ecosystem says The Telegraph.

Successful species which threaten weaker species but which are considered “foreign” are to be eliminated by human intervention – and all in the name of biodiversity!

An exhaustive list of non-native species has been targeted for control or eradication by Spain’s Environment Ministry to protect the country’s own flora and fauna.

The inventory of 168 “alien invaders” that were introduced accidentally or deliberately to the Iberian Peninsula and are now not welcome includes the American mink and raccoon, which found their way from commercial fur farms into Spain’s countryside where their population has boomed.

Other species have been introduced intentionally but are deemed a threat to native varieties. The Zebra Mussel and Red Swamp Crayfish have both been identified as causing serious harm to indigenous species and habitats and with causing “a negative impact on agricultural production”.

The Ruddy Duck, introduced to Europe as an ornamental species, is one of the worst culprits because of its aggressive courting behaviour and willingness to interbreed with endangered, native duck species.

Besides the impact on biodiversity and agriculture some species can also cause problems for human health.

The Asian Tiger mosquito originally native to areas of south-east Asia has in the last couple of decades invaded many countries because of increasing international travel and transport of goods. The insect is a vector for Chikungunya fever which can cause severe illness in humans. Invasive plants species, such as the Galenia pubescens and Water hyacinth are choking the sand dunes of southern Spain and clogging water courses.

But not all foreign species are considered a threat. The draft proposal includes a measure that will exempt from extermination those species considered beneficial to the environment. The Barbary Sheep, native to North Africa and introduced to a national park in Murcia, will be offered protection. Certain fish species, notably carp, pike and bass, will be restocked in the rivers Ebro and Tagus.

Solar power subsidies are not sustainable

October 28, 2010


The power plant.

Planta termosolar Andasol: Image via Wikipedia


In Spain the huge subsidies (with feed in tariffs as much as ten times the average cost of electricity production) had led to a rush of developers getting into projects which is now proving unsustainable. Bloomberg reports that

Solar investors  were lured by a 2007 law passed by the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero that guaranteed producers a so-called solar tariff of as much as 44 cents per kilowatt-hour for their electricity for 25 years — more than 10 times the 2007 average wholesale price of about 4 cents per kilowatt-hour paid to mainstream energy suppliers. Now more than 50,000 other Spanish solar entrepreneurs face financial disaster as the policy makers contemplate cutting the price guarantees that attracted their investment in the first place.

Spain stands as a lesson to other aspiring green-energy nations, including China and the U.S., by showing how difficult it is to build an alternative energy industry even with billions of euros in subsidies, says Ramon de la Sota, a private investor in Spanish photovoltaic panels and a former General Electric Co. executive. “The government totally overshot with the tariff,” de la Sota says. “Now they have a huge bill to pay — but where’s the technology, where’s the know-how, where’s the value?”

The situation in Germany is equally disturbing. The New Scientist reports

Solar power is intermittent and can arrive in huge surges when the sun comes out. These most often happen near midday rather than when demand for power is high, such as in the evenings. A small surge can be accommodated by switching off conventional power station generators, to keep the overall supply to the grid the same. But if the solar power input is too large it will exceed demand even with all the generators switched off. Stephan Köhler, head of Germany’s energy agency, DENA, warned in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung on 17 October that at current rates of installation, solar capacity will soon reach those levels, and could trigger blackouts.

Subsidies have encouraged German citizens and businesses to install solar panels and sell surplus electricity to the grid at a premium. Uptake has been so rapid that solar capacity could reach 30 gigawatts, equal to the country’s weekend power consumption, by the end of next year. “We need to cap installation of new panels,” a spokesperson for DENA told New Scientist.

The experience with highly subsidised feed-in tariffs is proving to be less than successful. In country after country the use of such subsidies is proving to be a major distortion, unhealthy and unsustainable. Countries such as India which are contemplating the use of similar subsidies for promoting intermittent, wind or solar power are beginning to have second thoughts and are now having to consider caps. It is beginning to sink in that such intermittent capacity cannot be counted into the generating base and does not reduce the need for alternative, backup generating capacity. Moreover the use of intermittent power from solar and wind only ensures that the operating conditions for the alternative capacity and for the grid are fundamentally more inefficient. This in turn leads to a hidden cost as a consequence of using the solar or wind power.

It is likely that these subsidies will have to be scaled down drastically.

Following fiasco in Spain, electric car sales slump in the UK

October 23, 2010


G-Wiz Electric Vehicle parked outside 37 Savil...

G-Wiz Electric Car:Image via Wikipedia


In August it was apparent that Spain’s much-publicized plans to put thousands of electric cars on the road as part of a drive for a greener economy were way off target, with only 16 sold so far compared to the 2000 target for this year.

The Guardian reported today that

Sales of new electric cars in the UK plummeted by nearly 90% in 2009 compared with their peak in 2007, according to motoring trade association figures released this week. Just 55 of the green cars – whose fans include Boris Johnson, Jonathan Ross and Jade Jagger – were registered in 2009, in contrast to 397 in 2007, says the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The huge fall is a blow to UK efforts to meet tough carbon emission cut targets in a decade, and comes just months before the government introduces a subsidy of up to £5,000 off new electric cars.

Nearly half of the electric vehicles sold last year were the tiny G-Wiz car. The latest modelhas a top speed of 50mph and a range of 48 miles between charges.

In January, the coalition will begin offering up to £5,000 towards the price of a series of newly launched electric cars, as part of a subsidy announced by the former Labour government. The Department for Transport (DfT) anticipates around 8,600 of the cars will be sold in the first year of the scheme. The government has so far committed £43m for the scheme to run until March 2012, with a review taking place in January 2012, but in yesterday’s spending review it talked of “supporting consumer incentives for electric and other low-emission cars throughout the life of this parliament,” suggesting the subsidy would continue after March 2012 though possibly at a lower rate.

In Spain the Industry Ministry’s plan was to have 2,000 electric cars on the road by the end of 2010 and 20,000 electric and hybrid vehicles operating the following year.

I cannot help concluding that most of these highly artificial “green” subsidies – whether for cars or for solar energy or  for wind turbines – are badly thought through, are chasing a mirage and will be counter-productive.

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