France’s ban on hydraulic fracturing should not be eased because the oil and gas drilling technique is causing “considerable” environmental damage in the U.S., according to a government minister.
“We have to have our eyes wide open about what is going on in the U.S.,” Environmental and Energy Minister Delphine Batho said during a radio debate. “The reality is that the cost of producing gas doesn’t take into account considerable environmental damage.”
Earthquakes, aquifer pollution, heavy metal contamination, increased truck traffic and damage to the countryside are consequences of fracking, the minister said.
France outlawed fracking in 2011 under the government of former President Nicolas Sarkozy because of environmental concerns. 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. The lobbies argue it would help reverse France’s industrial decline, raise competitiveness through cheaper energy supplies and lower unemployment.
“The U.S. has invented environmental dumping,” Batho said today. “Gas prices in the U.S. don’t take into account the cost of environmental damage that future generations will have to pay.”
France should pass up on potential shale resources in favor of “massive development” of renewable energies including biomass, Batho said.
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.
“We have to at least allow research that would permit us to evaluate the resources we have in shale oil and gas,” Laurence Parisot, head of the French business lobby Medef, said during the same radio debate. “We need to know their characteristics and whether it would be profitable to develop them.”
If fracking is properly carried out, it can be “risk free,” she said. Banning the method is “signing the death knell” for France’s petrochemicals industry.”
The French parliament is scheduled to publish a study tomorrow on alternative techniques to fracking.
“Shale gas is not a miracle solution for Europe to lower energy prices,” EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in an interview published today in Le Monde newspaper. She said Europe should avoid the same “errors” as the U.S. through rules limiting risks of water pollution.