French Fracking Ban Should Be Eased to Assess Shale Reserves

France’s ban on hydraulic fracturing should be eased to estimate the size of its shale oil and gas reserves, according to a parliamentary report.

Dozens of exploration wells could be drilled in regions where seismic data has indicated promising reserves, a report by a French parliamentary commission showed.

“We have to estimate our reserves more precisely,” Deputy Christian Bataille told a press conference today. Shale oil in the Paris Basin appears “promising” while data on shale gas in southwestern France is outdated, he said.

The recommendations would require changes to France’s 2011 fracking ban implemented by former President Nicolas Sarkozy. His successor Francois Hollande has said he supports the ban. The country’s business lobbies have stepped up a campaign in recent months in favor of shale energy development, which commonly uses fracking. They argue it would help reverse France’s industrial decline, raise competitiveness through cheaper energy supplies and lower unemployment.

“Everything rests in the way the drilling is carried out,” Senator Jean-Claude Lenoir said at today’s press conference. “We have many regulations about industrial sites that could apply” to avoid enviromental damage.

Publication of the report comes a day after Energy Minister Delphine Batho rejected any move to relax the ban, citing “considerable” environmental damage in the U.S. caused by the method.

Earthquakes, aquifer pollution, heavy metal contamination, increased truck traffic and damage to the countryside are consequences of fracking, the minister said in a radio debate.

Environmental Dumping

“The U.S. has invented environmental dumping,” Batho said. “Gas prices in the U.S. don’t take into account the cost of environmental damage that future generations will have to pay.”

France and Poland have the greatest potential for recoverable shale gas in Europe, the International Energy Agency has said. The French anti-fracking law would allow some forms of drilling for research purposes under highly controlled conditions, something the government has so far blocked.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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