Will Socialists end all Shale Fracking?




France’s Green Euro MEP José Bové, one of the leaders of the grass roots movement against fracking in France, says he believes the recently elected Socialist president will, in time, revoke all onshore shale gas drilling licenses.

5 Nicole BRICQ - sénatrice de la Seine et Marne

Nicole BRICQ – a senator who opposed fracking, is now Ecology Minister (Photo credit: Sénat)

 

He told La Dépêche du Midi he had worked very closely with Ecology Minister Nicole Bricq, then Socialist senator for Seine-et-Marne (Ile-de-France), in the early stages of the fight against shale gas. “She is now in charge of this dossier. Of the 64 permits granted only four have been cancelled. But the new Minister has called for a re-examination of all files on the matter and has made clear the goal is to rethink the law — the code minière — regulating all mining and that includes shale gas, in France.”

Nicole Bricq, 64, was appointed Ecology Minister in May 2012 by PM Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Here the new Minister while still an opposition senator, explains why she disapproves of shale gas fracking:

Gaz de schiste : pourquoi Nicole Bricq y est opposée


Nicole Bricq sur les gaz de schistes par Senateurs_socialistes

José Bové who sits as a Europe Ecologie Les Verts deputy said “We should not forget that the grassroots mobilisation (against fracking) in all affected regions of the country forced the government to u-turn. Voters have made it clear that underground water resources are a common good and that we must not ignore the democratic will. But we must remain vigilant even if there is currently no risk of seeing shale gas land rigs deployed.”

Nicole Bricq is expected to  implement “the energy and environment transition ” pledged by Francois Hollande in his inaugural address. As part of  60 commitments in the project, the new head of state has indicated a desire to make France “the nation of environmental excellence.”

The most emblematic measure the new minister is expected to introduce is the promised cut in the weight of nuclear in the energy mix from 75% to 50% by 2025 – via the closure, over the next five years, of the Fessenheim plant. The Socialists believe this reduction can be offset by increased use of renewable energy helped by “the creation and development of industrial clusters in this sector”, according to a report on GreenUnivers, a Green Business website.

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The new president plans a major nationwide debate on energy transition that will inform a new law to be introduced in 2013. But warns Nicolas Rochon, CEO of RGreen, an investment advisory firm, “in a sensitive financial context implementation of all these manifesto commitments is unlikely to be easy.”

According to some analysts the position of the new government (which may or may not be in power after the June parliamentary elections, together with the very cautious phraseology used by François Hollande (see below) signals that the fracking issue is far from resolved.

Here for instance are some questions and answers from an interview conducted March 26 2012 (ahead therefore of the presidential election) by François Vignal (FV) with Nicole Bricq (NB) on the TV station Public Sénat and published on an anti-fracking website:

FV: For research purposes a national commission to assess techniques used in exploration and exploitation of gas and oil shale was created by decree on Thursday without any publicity. Environmental groups have denounced “the hypocrisy of the government (at that time the Sarkozy-supporting UMP) “, is this also your feeling?

NB: The commission was established by law in July 2011. I remind you that the PS senators did not vote for it. It is dominated by state officials and industry professionals. Its democratic expression will be limited. But it was sold as a step forward. Given the offensive waged by industry professionals – keen to embrace this new El Dorado – I do understand when environmental groups speak of a certain hypocrisy. Among senators, we have always said that this commission will act as a caution ahead of the reopening of the (fracking permit) case. In Ile-de-France, I note that land purchases continue (for fracking concessions). We face a new offensive, after an earlier retreat. Professionals and financial interests have redoubled their offensive. This is not an issue that is on the table for this (presidential) campaign, but behind it lies an energy choice that France must make. As for the ‘Eldorado’, we have seen that Poland has shown that the resource is not the ‘Eldorado’ they were led to believe it was…

FV: “The report of the Industry and Ecology ministries inspection taskforce says it favours a “limited number” of well drilling using hydraulic fracturing so as to conduct “experiments for the sole purpose of scientific research under public control.” Do you think these safeguards are enough?

NB: It is a guarantee, but to what end is this control exercised? The voices of representatives of industry should be balanced by those of the ecologists. What happened in this matter initially? The minister safeguarded his own position and then signed the (drilling) authorizations. He then said he had not seen … Very early on Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet lost interest the subject. The Department of Ecology has completely lost its touch. There has to be parity of views so that the interests of each group are represented and we still have not resolved the issue of a barrier between exploitation and exploration. That borderline is unclear. We need a reform of the mining code (mining regulations) for that to happen.

FV: Asked about the matter in late February, François Hollande said that one should “never rule out anything, especially if research shows that one can obtain this gas without harming nature” …

NB: You have to read everything he said. He was prudent. But he has not shut any doors. This is all part of the energy debate that we must have, which for now is solely focused on nuclear power and there has still not been any public consultation on the issue.

FV: Does François Hollande’s position bother you?

NB: He is being prudent on matters that have not been properly assessed. When you have Total (the French oil major) suing the state, attacking the provisions of the Jacob law, and while you have no technological advances that suggest you can extract the gaz other than by fracturing, you should be prudent. This debate will be resumed after the presidential elections I believe. I do understand his caution.”

 

 

According to the website of the ecology magazine Terra Eco – a supporter of the kind of hair-shirt environmentalism encouraged by the global warming lobby — and incubated by EU bureaucrats– in a “triumph of ideology over reason” as the UK’s Spectator magazine calls it: “Nicole Bricq has a solid background of 15 years of interest in the environment movement. ‘She is very loyal to political decisions, highly respected in her field, works hard, and will push to get what she wants’ says Bettina Laville , a green politician who has known the minister for 20 years.

Even José Bové seems to appreciate that the new minister has a hard fist in her velvet glove. “She was the first to table a motion for a very clear unambiguous law, requesting the cancellation of all shale gas exploration and operating licenses: this is a woman of conviction who knows the realities of her subject”. he said.”

Meanwhile aware of growing grassroots opposition to fracking the International Energy Agency released a report via The World Energy Outlook its flagship publication, entitled The Golden Age of Gas? This offers a range of arguments its suggests could be deployed to counter the concerns of those seeking to stop shale gas drilling.

Story: Ken Pottinger
editorial@french-news-online.com

UPDATE: Following the June 2012 parliamentary elections Ecology Minister Nicole Bricq has been reshuffled out of her post apparently after the big oil companies made clear their dislike of her proposed clampdown on all off-shore drilling permits pending a propsoed revision of France’s Mining Code according to Rue89 .

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