How to pretend doing something without committing to anything

A nuclear energy plant in Spain, in the town of Santa María de Garoña, is the focus of controversy in recent weeks, thanks to the Government’s determination to close it down in spite of favourable reports that call for its continuation beyond its design lifetime of 40 years.

Spanish government president Rodríguez Zapatero‘s motivation to close it down is purely political. He wants to be seen as the promoter of “clean energy”, and also needs public discussion of a controversial topic (the debate on the use or not of nuclear energy) to divert attention from Spain’s real problems (unemployment, inefficient government, inefficient justice system, etc…)

But now (2009) it is a bad time to close this nuclear plant down, for it would leave thousands of people unemployed, and that would hurt Rodríguez Zapatero‘s image, in the midst of the economic crisis.

Therefore, what bright idea did our visionary president come up with? Simply introduce legislation that mandates the closing down of this nuclear plant in 2013. (automatically translated version here)

Why 2013?

Because the next national election will be in 2012. During the election campaign of 2012, we are sure to hear Rodríguez Zapatero claiming he will close down the nuclear plant in Garoña, while the opposition leader, should he win the election, will try to keep it operational.

If Rodríguez Zapatero wins the election in 2012, he can easily close down Garoña in 2013, claiming he is doing it according to law. By 2013 the economy is likely to have recovered somewhat, so the unemployment caused by this closing will not be so problematic (politically for him, that is). It wouldn’t be surprising, however, that in 2013 he would decide to extend the life of Garoña, if it suits him politically.

On the other hand, if someone else wins the 2012 election, they will be required by law to close down Garoña. This other “someone” would be the presidential candidate of the Popular Party (PP, currently the main opposition party). The PP has called for extending the operation life of Garoña, so the new law by Rodríguez Zapatero is intended exclusively to create problems for the PP, should they win the election.

In other words:

  • Rodríguez Zapatero introduces legislation to close
    down the nuclear plant.

  • He presents himself as committed to putting an end to nuclear energy use.
  • He presents himself as supporting clean renewable energy sources.
  • He avoids the unemployment problem in Garoña in the short term (2009-2011, his
    time in office)

  • He dumps the hot potato that he created on the next Government (after
    2012)

It surely sounds like the perfect move for a politician: dodging problems, passing them on to someone else. That’s all Rodríguez Zapatero is capable of.

Garoña produces 1.3% of the total national electricity production in Spain, and it reaches the end of its designed 40-year lifetime in 2011. Therefore, if it really must be closed, the Government should indeed close it, instead of passing on the problem to someone else. If it is deemed necessary for Garoña to continue in operation, then the Government should act accordingly. However, what Rodríguez Zapatero is doing is neither one thing nor the other: He is staying in middle ground, extending the life of Garoña just 2 years (from 2011 to 2013), just enough so that the problem falls on the hands of the next Government (in which he may not be president).

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