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France Should Allow Fracking to Gauge Resources, Lawmakers Say

France should allow drillers to use hydraulic fracturing to estimate the size of the nation’s shale oil and gas reserves, lawmakers said in a cross-party report.

Dozens of exploration wells should be drilled, overseen by the state and allowed under provisions for research in a current ban on the technique, according to the parliamentary commission.

Fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground to free trapped gas or oil. It is opposed by those concerned that water supplies may be contaminated.

“This can be carried out without environmental destruction and the use of toxic substances,” Socialist Deputy Christian Bataille, one of the authors, told reporters today. “We can’t just keep shutting the door. That would be obscurantism.”

French President Francois Hollande and Environment Minister Philippe Martin support the ban, implemented in 2011 by opponent and presidential predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy. Business lobbies are urging shale development to help reverse industrial decline and increase competitiveness through cheaper energy supplies. France and Poland have the greatest potential for recoverable shale gas in Europe, the International Energy Agency says.

“France shouldn’t be left behind and totally dependent on others for the technology,” said Senator Jean-Claude Lenoir, a member of the opposition UMP. “Shale gas has been demonized.”

Total SA Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie and GDF Suez SA head Gerard Mestrallet have urged the government to allow companies to estimate reserves before deciding on whether to develop them. Total was among companies that had exploration permits revoked after the passage of the anti-fracking law. The company develops U.S. shale oil and gas reserves and GDF Suez has bought a stake in licenses in England’s Bowland basin.

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