No shale gas please, we’re French

The controversial practice of fracking for shale gas has been an energy and economic boom for the U.S. But some countries look determined to avoid it and its potential environmental dangers.

Take France for instance. If you had to sum up president Francois Hollande’s position, it would be “over mon cadavre.” (My dead body in case you need a translation).

“As long as I am president, there will be no exploration for shale gas in France,” Hollande told French TV, as reported by the BBC.

His steadfast declaration flies in the face of Dallas, Texas-based  Schuepbach Energy, which lost two exploration permits when France outlawed the practice in 2011. Schuepbach has challenged the ban. A French court is hearing the case this week.

France is believed to have significant reserves of shale gas. Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg has proposed a state-backed company to examine shale gas possibilities, but Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has overruled the idea, which President Hollande also opposes.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, blasts underground rock with water, sand and chemicals to release natural gas. Environmental critics say it can pollute the local water supply and cause earthquakes.

France decided in the 1970s to rely heavily on nuclear power, in large measure because it lacked fossil fuel resources like coal, gas and oil (natural gas fracking technology had not yet hit its current state). Today, 58 reactors provide over 75 percent of the Republic’s electricity, making France’s energy sector one of the lowest CO2 emitters among developed nations.

Hollande has said he wants to cut the nuclear quotient down to 50 percent by 2025. It will be interesting to see what France does for a low-carbon encore.

Read Mark Halper’s story on Smartplanet.com here
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