Digging Deeper, Getting To No

Casa Dominique is an ecolodge on Lanzarote's northern coast. Julie Genicot, a French trekking guide, has lived in Lanzarote since her grandparents opened the Casa Dominique when she was a child. She worries that offshore oil drilling might ruin the natural environment she grew up in. Lauren Frayer/NPR

Casa Dominique is an ecolodge on Lanzarote’s northern coast. Julie Genicot, a French trekking guide, has lived in Lanzarote since her grandparents opened the Casa Dominique when she was a child. She worries that offshore oil drilling might ruin the natural environment she grew up in. Lauren Frayer/NPR

We cannot possibly say that Spain does not need more oil. But we can say that before going to the Canary Islands there should be more effort to use the sun and wind, as at least one European country with less direct sunlight per year than Spain has successfully done. Spain should dig deeper on the alternative energy front before drilling in the sea. Go, Julie, go! Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for bringing this story to our attention:

An oil rig now floats offshore in one of Europe’s top winter beach destinations — Spain’s Canary Islands. For the first time, Spain has authorized offshore oil drilling there. It’s hoping to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. But the project has prompted massive protests by local residents and environmental groups like Greenpeace.

Julie Genicot is a French trekking guide who’s lived in Lanzarote, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, ever since her grandparents opened an ecolodge there when she was a child.

“We have all the elements. It’s very windy, we have tides, the sun. It’s a very energetic place,” she says, looking out her windows across sand dunes in a protected natural park, backed by the Atlantic Ocean. “You have earth, the fire — we’re surrounded by volcanoes. And the wind, the sea — it’s very powerful.”

Every year, millions of tourists come to hike these volcanoes, ride the waves, scuba dive, or just bask in 360-plus days of sunshine. Genicot makes a living from taking tourists on hiking trips around the island’s natural treasures. The whole island is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

“You have deepwater corals which can live more than hundreds of years,” says Helena Alvarez, a marine biologist with the environmental group Oceana, which works to protect the world’s oceans. “And on the other hand you have a third of the known species of whales and dolphins … which live at least part of their lifetime in the Canaries, or pass by while they are migrating.”

But there’s believed to be another natural treasure hidden deep under Lanzarote’s seabed — oil. And while strict environmental laws protect the pristine shoreline around Genicot’s grandparents’ hotel, there’s little such regulation offshore — where oil drilling began in mid-November.

Town councilwoman Traude Gfoeller, who came to Lanzarote from Austria 24 years ago, is a vocal opponent of that drilling.

“There’s too much at risk,” she says. “It’s as simple as that.”

Gfoeller takes NPR to a quaint fishing village on Lanzarote’s south coast, and describes how desalination plants convert the salty Atlantic Ocean into drinking water, supplying all of Lanzarote’s potable water needs. But 30 miles offshore, an oil rig is floating atop that same water…

Read the whole story here.

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