France might have some of Europe’s most promising shale gas reserves, but French President Francois Hollande says the gas will remain underground as long as he’s in office.
This week, the country’s Constitutional Council is expected to review a challenge by Dallas-based Schuepbach Energy LLC that says the government unjustly canceled its permits to extract natural gas from shale deposits in the southern towns of Nant and Villeneuve-de-Berg after France banned the process in 2011, becoming the first country in the world to do so. On Monday, Hollande insisted the ban, which was supported by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, won't be reversed while he is in office.
"As long as I am president, there will be no exploration for shale gas in France," Hollande told French TV. "The debate on shale gas has gone on for too long.”
Shale gas extraction, widely embraced in North America, is controversial because of its intensive use of water and potential harm to the environment and public health. Proponents deny any adverse effects.
Schuepbach Energy has challenged the revocation of its drilling permits. The case has been kicked up from a local court to the country’s Constitutional Council for review and ruling. Earlier this month, the European Commission revealed the results of a public consultation that suggests a majority of Europeans view shale gas development favorably, but critics of the survey point out more than half of the respondents were from Poland, which is trying to remove its yoke of dependence on Russian gas imports.
Sarkozy backed the legislative move to ban fracking and revoke licenses issued to Schuepbach and French oil company Total SA (NYSE:TOT), saying the move to drill in the Causses and the Cévennes mountains (a Unesco World Heritage Site) would “massacre the almost spiritual scenery” of the region, Bloomberg reported in 2011.