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The French Public Says No to 'Le Fracking'

Natural gas may be poised for a post-Fukushima boom, but even it faces hurdles. In the U.S. and Europe, concerns have been growing about the environmental impact of drilling for gas trapped in shale formations. And in France, José Bové—the French environmental activist, farmer, McDonald's (MCD) antagonist, and onetime Presidential candidate—has brought the nascent search for shale gas and oil to a halt.

As Total (TOT) and other energy companies readied rigs outside Paris and started to plan for drilling in southern France, local environmental groups began raising concerns about damage to water tables from the hunt for hydrocarbons locked in shale rock. On Jan. 22, Bové started a petition that now has about 100,000 signatures; within weeks the government ordered an exploration moratorium. On Mar. 11, Prime Minister François Fillon extended the ban until June, when parliamentary and ministry reports on the environmental and economic effects are due.