No, France does not close the door to shale gas

Arnaud Montebourg the second on the right, François Hollande and minister Economy Pierre Moscovici, at a meeting about nuclear central's Fessenheim. cc Flickr ©Benjamin Boccas

Arnaud Montebourg the second on the right, François Hollande and minister Economy Pierre Moscovici, at a meeting about nuclear central’s Fessenheim. cc Flickr ©Benjamin Boccas

Yes, it is true!  The French president François Hollande has rejected seven exploration’s licenses. At the beginning of an environmental conference on 14th September, he said:
“In the present state of our knowledge, nobody, I mean nobody, can say that the exploitation of gas and oil shale by hydraulic fracturing, the only known technique today is free from heavy risk to human health and the environment. That is why I asked Delphine Batho, Minister Ecology, to implement – without further delay – the rejection of seven permit applications filed with the State, that have legitimately raised concern in several regions of France”.
However, the French position is actually less definite.
First, the Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on 22nd August said that “The debate [is] not settled”.
Industries but also the CGT, the main French syndicate, are lobbying politicians. On their side, Arnaud Montebourg, Minister responsible in Industry, declared to the newspaper Le Monde yesterday: “The president has condemned hydraulic fracturing because of its destruction of the environment, but not shale gas in itself” and that “if the research on this technique evolves, we can talk again about it”.
On the other side, Minister Ecology Delphine Batho follows Hollande’s policy, but does she really close the door? She has said in an interview to the magazine Terra Eco that if “it has been shown that nowhere there are operating techniques that are not a problem for the environment and human health. The day when the opposite is demonstrated, there may be a public debate”. However, this will be difficult, for resources that are trapped in deep layers. In addition, an article of the newspaper Le Figaro discusses the government’s intentions. “The government […] could give a pledge to support the industry by creating a commission involving all stakeholders. This would be responsible for defining the experimental conditions for exploration of gas reserves in France”. Delphine Batho has denied making this proposal.
At present, some permits are in the process of authorisation; others are granted.
Many associations protest and condemn this position that speaks with different voices.
It must be reminded that exploration with hydraulic fracturing has never happened in France, and it is forbidden since 2011.
* it is false: other techniques have been found.
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