Protest against oil exploration: repsol wants to drill in canary islands

A large protest campaign is forming against oil drilling plans off the Canary Islands. More than 33,000 signatures have already been collected against the Repsol project.

The beaches of Fuerteventura are threatened with oil drilling. Picture: reuters

Massive resistance is mounting against plans by Spanish oil company Repsol to drill for oil off the Canary Islands. A protest campaign collected more than 33,000 signatures against the project since Monday, it was announced Tuesday.

In addition to Greenpeace and the regional government of the Canary Islands, opponents of the project include the local fishing association, the opposition Socialists and personalities such as the mother of Oscar winner Javier Bardem, actress Pilar Bardem.

According to its critics, Repsol wants to drill for oil nine kilometers off Fuerteventura and 18 kilometers off Lanzarote. This seismically active area is largely a nature reserve. The project is a serious threat to the nature of the islands, their economy, their drinking water and tourism, explained Bardem, herself a native of the Canary Islands.

Opponents also fear a possible environmental disaster like the one in the Gulf of Mexico when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010. It was the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The Canary Islands attract millions of tourists every year. However, they suffer even more than the mainland from the recession, with local unemployment at 35 percent. Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria said the oil project would bring "another economic activity" to the region.

A spokesman for Repsol told the afp news agency that at present the project is nothing more than "research and exploration"; it is far from being about producing oil and gas. At the same time, he recalled that Spain is the European country with the greatest dependence on foreign oil and gas imports. "What country would not want to know what natural resources it has?" he added.