There is an Iberian exception that is rarely talked about in the headlines. Not the one known by the gas price ceiling applied by Spain and Portugal. It refers to the speech by Alberto Núñez Feijóo whose lyrics and music have little to do with the messages, sometimes very alarming, that come from Brussels and the governments of the large European countries. The priorities are different. The European Commission needs to radically reduce the import of Russian oil and gas, which requires an unprecedented level of energy savings in recent decades. Feijóo is only interested in winning the next elections.
In recent months, the French, German and British governments have warned the population of the need to make sacrifices to reduce energy consumption in order not to continue indirectly financing the Russian invasion of Ukraine with oil and gas imports. On the horizon is a winter in which there were serious doubts about the supply, although those fears seem to have subsided. The PP leader is not taken for granted.
At the last PP congress, attendees gave a standing ovation to a Ukrainian deputy who spoke on behalf of her country. Solidarity is measured only in applause. At the moment of truth, the party does not want to talk about sacrifices or restrictions. And he has no problem stating it in public. With the PP, you won't even know that there is a war in Europe. It is a fantasy, but elections have been won before with strategies that had little relation to real events.
In the Senate debate on Tuesday, Feijóo made it clear that he is concerned about the price paid for electricity, but not so much about saving energy. Everything happens to reduce the taxes that are levied on it and thus reduce the bill and therefore maintain the level of consumption, something that the European Commission rejects. "No impositions, no restrictions," he said. The only thing he accepts is that consumers be rewarded with "discounts" if they manage to consume less. As if it were a television contest.
"You do not propose savings. What you propose is rationing," he told Pedro Sánchez for his decree of measures approved at the end of August. The same could have been said to Macron, Scholz and von der Leyen. The usual speech of the PP since the time of Casado that denounces the supposed liberticidal desires of the Spanish Government. If their leader were to be believed, all of Europe would now be an authoritarian sea.
The European Commission confirmed on Tuesday that the situation requires an intervention in the energy market that I would have rejected a few months ago. Conservative Ursula von der Leyen called for a drop in demand, leaving it up to governments to determine how to do it: "We will propose a mandatory target to reduce electricity use at peak hours." It is not yet known what percentage, since it will be decided on Friday at a meeting of European energy ministers. It could be at least 5%.
To appreciate the impact of this figure, we must remember that Sánchez said with great satisfaction in the Senate that since the approval of the decree, energy consumption has been reduced by one and a half points – "equivalent to a methane tanker," he said – which It's not rocket science either. We're going to need a bigger ship.
In addition, the president of the Commission calls for something that is anathema to the PP: limit the extraordinary profits of electricity companies, including renewables. They're enjoying "huge income, income they never anticipated, income they never dreamed of, and income they can't reinvest as quickly." That is, benefits that will end up in the pockets of its shareholders. The idea of Brussels is that this extra money is used to compensate families and companies for the cost of electricity to which they are obliged.
The key there is to know how far they are limited in the case of renewables, which have benefited from the increase in gas prices. Drafts cited by the Financial Times point out a price cap of 200 euros per megawatt/hour, although in the end it could be a lower figure. In practice, this would mean separating the price of electricity generated by renewables from the higher price of gas.
Conditioned by the opposition of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the PP positioned itself against the energy saving decree, did not vote in favor of ratifying the decree, then at least accepted the idea in general terms, and in the end it has returned to the box of output with references to "rationing". The winds coming from Brussels leave him very cold and are not going to alter his strategy.
In January 2010, almost two years before the elections, Mariano Rajoy made the promise of a happy world. "When he governs, unemployment will go down." For the interview in which his words were published, went to be photographed next to a queue of unemployed before an employment office in Madrid. Everything was going to be so easy that he even said that he was in favor of reducing VAT (he raised it shortly after arriving in Moncloa). "We'll fix the economy in two years," he said in another interview. An unemployment rate of 22.5% was found at the end of 2011which did not fall below 20% until the third quarter of 2016.
Right now, Feijóo poses a similar message. It doesn't matter that Ukraine burns or that the war drags on for years. The Spanish will be able to continue consuming the energy they want, those who can pay for it. It is only necessary to lower their taxes. Everything else will be solved when he arrives at La Moncloa.