SAILOR and environmentalist Maud Fontenoy has come out in favour of fracking.
Just days after Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said he was trying to convince President François Hollande to overturn a ban on experimental drilling for shale gas, Ms Fontenoy has said in an interview with Le Parisien that the controversial process of extracting natural gas from shale rock deep within the earth would cut energy costs in France.
Mr Montebourg last week appeared to show his support for the shale gas industry and of the need to develop shale gas exploration. President Hollande last year banned all drilling for it on French soil.
Pointing to the rise of fracking in America, Ms Fontenoy said: “The exploitation of shale gas across the Atlantic has become an ecological asset for the United States, significantly reducing their consumption of coal, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 450 million tonnes over the last five years.
“The exploitation of shale gas would lower the cost of energy in France. In the United States, it represents a third of the US gas supply and is set to create 600,000 jobs by 2020.”
A recent American study estimated that France may have some four trillion square metres of shale gas and five billion extractable barrels of shale oil.
Ms Fontenoy said she supported a process of « propane fracking », which is used in Canada and is believed to cause fewer environmental problems. It uses a non-flammable liquid derived from propane which is currently used as a propellant in asthma inhalers.
Propane fracking is highlighted in a 2013 parliamentary report as a cleaner, safer method of exploiting shale gas.
Ms Fontenoy, who is best known for her work to protect the oceans, said: “This is the most interesting solution now because it does not pollute.”
She was speaking a day after survey revealed that two out of three people in France are opposed to fracking.
Less than a quarter of those polled (24%) said they were in favour of fracking in France, according to the online poll of 1,004 people by Ifop for renewable energies body Qualit'EnR.
The survey also found that French homeowners prefer renewable energy over fossil fuels or nuclear power.
Earlier this week, European commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani argued that Europe « should not turn its back on shale gas ».
He argued that Europe needs « new ideas » for its energy policy if it is to stay competitive. He said: “Although many people in Europe oppose fracking, we need unbiased debates on the issue.”
Photo: Thomas Vollaire