A few years ago, fracking in Spain seemed as likely as bullfighting in Britain.

These days, energy companies from Texas, Canada and Ireland are going after exploration and drilling permits in hopes of capitalizing on geology that indicates Spain has a sizable chunk of the 883 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in shale estimated to sit under Europe.

What’s changed? A sluggish economy for one — the energy industry estimates fracking could eventually create tens of thousands of jobs in a nation with an unemployment rate of 26 percent. Unlocking gas deposits might ease what consumers pay for the heating fuel. It’s about triple the U.S. price.