No Fracking in France … Well Perhaps
Delphine Batho, France’s new Environment and Energy Minister is adamant there will be no fracking in France. Yet the pressures continue with the latest coming, surprisingly, from leading scientist Claude Allègre, no friend of climate warmists.
“The government clearly and distinctly maintains the ban on exploiting shale gas because nowhere in the world has it been proven that this exploitation can be done without significant environmental damage and important health risks,” the minister told the Bourdin Direct programme on BFMTV. “Nothing on the government’s agenda today foresees a reconsideration of the ban on hydraulic fracturing,” she added.
However she declined to rule out future permits to oil companies prospecting for shale gas deposits and insisted there would first be a “full revision of the Mining Code” which in France gives ownership of all sub-soil resources to the state and allows for compulsory expropriation of property located above these.
See the Bourdin Direct interview below:
Reacting later Jean-Louis Schilansky president of UFIP, the French oil industry body told Agence France-Presse: “We have noted the minister’s statement. But we hope that a debate can take place,” he said.
However Le Figaro believes government may, despite the ministerial statement, be sending mixed signals
The paper noted that Delphine Batho’s statement had come just “a few days after French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg reopened the door to possible exploration of shale gas in France” in a July 11 address to the Conférence nationale de l’industrie when he raised the option as a way of “securing French energy independence”.
A final decision on the highly controversial subject is also likely to embroil Socialist President François Hollande who made it clear when he was tackled about shale gas while on the campaign trail earlier this year, that it would wrong to prejudge the future in any decisions taken on schiste.
Commentators at the time suggested his cautious statement had left the shale gas door open provided a technology other than hydraulic fracturing or fracking were developed. One industry expert noted at the time that while for the moment, “technical and political conditions are not ripe for any change in course the situation is not static.”
Read more on Claude Allègre Cashing-in from Flopenhagen to Cancún:
Meanwhile in Le Point Claude Allègre a French scientist and member of the prestigious French Academy of Science whose book “The Climate Imposter or False Ecology” berates the work of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has made a surprise call in support of shale gas exploration.
Writing in the magazine he said: “We can exploit these deposits in an environmentally responsible manner. Not to do so would make us guilty of an important failure. While France prohibits the exploration and exploitation of shale gas, this fuel is going to give America a century of energy independence, and it will probably do likewise for the Chinese and for India (…) We talk about pollution of groundwater but we should remember that the water table is located 100 to 500 metres underground, while shale gas lies some 2,000 to 3,000 metres deep. This implies that if the drilling pipe is properly sealed, there is no risk of groundwater pollution by the pipe as it passes through the water table (…) shale gas has been exciting hopes around Europe. Poland and Germany, France, Britain and Spain and probably more so Morocco, possess significant potential deposits, according to our existing geological knowledge. Denying these energy sources as we are currently doing in France, is an absurdity that will weigh heavily in our future!”
Discussing how the resources could be unlocked in France he added: “First there is a fundamental obstacle to be removed urgently and that is the Mining Code. In France under the Napoleonic Code, the subsoil belongs to the state. If there is shale gas on your property, you are expropriated and you are not compensated. The individual is trampled on the name of a pseudo-common interest, but in this case that of the oil companies. This is not the case in the US or in many other countries. Therefore, as a prerequisite to any further moves we must urgently amend the Mining Code so that if there is a successful prospecting find the landowner will get a share, say 5% of profits while local authorities will also take a 5% cut.”
Turning to pollution fears he suggested these challenges offered new business opportunities to leading French water utilities “who are among the best in the world”. “We should develop strict regulations on the origin of the water drilling and its subsequent cleanup. I’m sure French utilities can develop a protocol standard for cleaning waste water and general drilling conduct. It would also be good business for them, offering new markets to conquer! The responsible approach is therefore both to exploit this useful source of wealth and to protect the environment two aims that are not incompatible!” he claimed.
Claude Allègre is France’s most well know climate change sceptic and has been heavily attacked by his scientific colleagues and the green lobby for debunking the climate change “mythology”.
However perhaps the shale gas lobby should not be allowed to have it all their own way.
For France also sits on extensive reserves of geo-thermal energy which some experts claim could contribute far more than they currently do to the national energy mix given advances in the technology used to harness them. The big advantage is that geothermal is already mapped and tapped nationwide. All that is needed are further tax incentives and more government encouragement to bring them on-stream competitively.
According to the website of BRGM-Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières ‘France’s leading public institution in Earth science applications’: “The prime contribution of geothermal energy is heat production. Two channels exist: the supply of district heating networks from deep geothermal resources (about 1000 m), and the use of heat pump systems from shallow geothermal resources (0 – 150 m) for “domestic”(individual houses: heating, cooling and hot water) and intermediate (blocks of flats and tertiary sector buildings: heating and cooling) supply. Both types of technology are sufficiently advanced that they can be deployed at costs often less than those of other renewable energies. Thus the Ministry of the Interior’s Pluriannual Programme of Heat Investment is anticipating a growth of the geothermal contribution from 2.7 million Megawatt-hours in 2005 to 10.5 million Megawatt-hours (1.05 million housing equivalents) by 2015, making it the second source of renewable heat, after biomass (+ 800,000 housing equivalents).
This video shows the Geothermal Outlook for France:
The video reports on geothermal energy use in the Île de France where “35 geothermal power plants supply more than 150,000 homes by heating hot water. This in turn annually saves more than 340,000 tons of CO2 release into the atmosphere, the equivalent of pollution from 125,000 cars.”
In 2010 SEMHACH the leading geothermal system supplier in Europe had connected 23,000 homes in towns such as Chevilly-Larue, l’Haÿ-les-Roses and Villejuif to geothermal heat.
Other similar videos can be found here.
In a (now somewhat dated) paper — Geothermal Resources in France – Current Situation and Prospects– presented in 2005 to the World Geothermal Congress in Antalya, Turkey the authors, Philippe Laplaige, Jean Lemale, Sébastien Decottegnie,Alain Desplan, Olivier Goyeneche, Gregory Delobelle describe the progress of gepthermal in France as follows: “The exploitation of geothermal resources in France has seen several phases:
- a major development phase at the beginning of the 1980’s with, in particular, more than 70 geothermal district heating systems operating in the Paris area and, in 1987, launch of the European Deep Geothermal Energy Programme of Soultz-sous-Forêts;
- a period of withdrawal during the 1990’s marked by very little new activity and public support being geared essentially towards the Soultz-sous-Forêts Deep Geothermal Energy Programme;
- a boost in activity since 1998 following the Kyoto Agreement, and the decision taken in France to resume an active policy for energy management and the development of renewable energies.
Furthermore, since the introduction of the European electricity directive, France, under the influence of Ademe (the French Environment and Energy Management Agency), is seriously considering its position on geothermal energy, which could play a key role in reaching the objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emission. With this in mind, several studies have been launched by Ademe, many of which are in partnership with BRGM, so as to define the optimum conditions for boosting activity of low-enthalpy geothermal resources with a high exploitation potential.”
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Story by Ken Pottinger
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