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MPs back shale gas testing

Two MPs have been accused of being ‘salesmen’ for shale gas after producing a report strongly in favour of drilling

TWO French MPs have backed experimental drilling for shale gas in a controversial parliamentary report.

Jean-Claude Lenoir (Orne, UMP) and Christian Bataille (Nord, UMP) were asked to report on alternatives to the usual extraction technique – “fracking” – which was banned in France in 2011 due to fears it can pollute groundwater.

They called for “a few dozen experimental drillings” in order to “test improved fracking or alternative techniques” in their report, which has been accused of bias by other MPs who oppose it on environmental grounds.

Another objection is that France has pledged long-term reductions in the use of fossil fuels in favour of greener alternatives.

The MPs state that, since France banned fracking (forcing water mixed with sand and chemicals into underground rock), techniques have rapidly improved.

What is more, they say, it has already been used some 45 times in France with no pollution and can “controlled”. However there are also alternatives worth exploring, like using propane, the MPs said.

Mr Lenoir states their aim is not to encourage the use of fossil fuels, just that those used should preferably be French-sourced.

A recent American study estimated France may have some four trillion square metres of shale gas and five billion barrels of shale oil, that are extractable.

The MPs regret that “the shale gas issue has been demonised in France”, and that “unfortunately research is being developed everywhere apart from in France”.

The president of the National Assembly’s sustainable development commission, Jean-Paul Chanteguet, called the report “an act of faith” lacking in “scientific proof”.

National Assembly vice-president Denis Baupin and senator Corinne Bouchoux put out a statement describing it as “based on an ideological standpoint minimising the economic and environmental risks”.

Questioned in Le Parisien Environment Minister Philippe Martin said one should “beware of sales reps for fossil fuels”, adding that “even the managing director of Shell thinks it would not be cost effective to exploit this gas”.

Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem stressed that a “strict ban” on exploiting shale oil and gas remained in place.

This comes as Mr Martin refused, after a year and a half of reflection, to sign seven fossil fuel research permits in the Paris area for an American company, Hess Oil, because the firm is involved with shale gas.

Previous story: Scientists advise shale gas testing
Photo: Varodrig

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