Sarkozy Condemns Offshore Oil Drilling Plans in Mediterranean

French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned oil and natural gas exploration in the French Mediterranean as protesters prepared to march tomorrow against a drilling plan.

“It’s a crazy idea, go and look for oil somewhere else if there is some,” Sarkozy said in a campaign speech today in Saint-Raphael, a resort on the southern French Riviera. “I want to protect our scenery, it’s part of our identity.”

Sarkozy, who is seeking re-election in a two-round vote April 22 and May 6, reiterated remarks made yesterday in Caen against Mediterranean drilling near the Calanques cliffs, a popular tourist spot near Marseille.

The “Non aux Hydrocarbures en Mer” (No to Offshore Hydrocarbons) movement is planning a protest near the Bregancon fort tomorrow to warn against the dangers of pollution linked to oil exploration in the sea. The march near the presidential retreat is designed to put pressure on the government not to renew an exploration permit, according to the group’s website.

Melrose Resources Plc and partner Noble Energy France have applied to the French government for an extension until November 2015 of an exploration license in the French part of the Mediterranean.

Sarkozy today compared his opposition to offshore drilling in the Mediterranean with the search for oil and natural gas in shale rock. France last year became the first country in the world to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique used in the U.S. to extract energy from shale. The law was approved by parliament with support from Sarkozy’s party as well as the opposition Socialists.

Melrose is studying data from the French permit and hasn’t yet provided details of drilling plans.

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