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Spain slows down drivers to lower gas prices

Hector Avila pumps diesel fuel into his truck at a filling station along the Northwest Tollway in Des Plaines, Illinois.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Oil's trading above $106 a barrel today. And AAA reports gas prices in the U.S. have shot up 33 cents in the last two weeks alone. In Spain today, the government's trying to cut gas consumption amid the high oil prices by lowering the speed limit to 68 miles an hour.

Spanish drivers aren't very happy about that.

From Madrid, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports.


SARAH RAINSFORD: The government says by going slower, drivers will save fuel. The temporary measure was introduced as a way to counter the rapid rise in oil prices. Spain hopes drivers will take all that extra money they don't spend on gas -- and instead spend it on consumer goods and other things here at home instead.

But many economists are deeply skeptical, like Javier Diaz Gimenez at the IESE business school here in Madrid.

JAVIER DIAZ GIMENEZ: It really truly makes no sense whatsoever. I would give it the gold medal for an absurd policy measure.

But many Spaniards object to the slowdown. Some criticize it as a Soviet-style interference in their lives. They also suspect this slowdown will put a brake on Spain's economy, not improve it, especially important in a country where the unemployment rate is over to 20 percent.

Plus, drivers point out that changing the speed limit doesn't come free. Just changing the numbers on road signs around the country has already cost Spain $350,000.

In Madrid, I'm the BBC's Sarah Rainsford for Marketplace.

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