The exploitation of Shale gas in France : Why not?
It would take a comprehensive study to talk about shale gas because the studies are varied and conflicting. Therefore, it is more difficult to find a independent study, that is not funded by industrial or environmental lobbies.
My article will introduce you to various arguments for and against shale gas. While it is true that shale gas exploitation is particularly harmful for the environment but it can have advantages.
Presently, the debate about shale gas has been growing for a few months and this for several reasons: Many countries in Europe have authorized the exploitation of shale gas. (Poland in 2013, The UK 2014 and now the Denmark), Nicolas Sarkozy change his position on exploitation shale gas…
I)The debate about the exploitation of shale gas : The position of the Government
Since 2011, the position of government has not change. In France, the position of the government represents an obstacle to shale gas exploitation, in particular the Minister of Ecology Segolène Royal.
“ There is no question at this time when it was scarce public resources to invest in uncertain and speculative sectors. All public and private means should be invested in energy conservation and renewable energy.” (Europe 1, September 2014).
Today in France, the exploitation as well as research is not authorized by the legislation : Law 2011-835 of July 2011, prohibiting the exploration and mining of oil and gas by hydraulic fracturing and repealing the exclusive rights to use this technique for prospecting.
The President of the French Republic Francois Hollande has confirmed this position at the conference on 14th and 15th of September 2012. The government’s position favors the environmentally friendly approach.
But it is important to highlight that for prospecting itself fracking is not necessary . It is important to know whether there is a lot of shale gas in France. Only after this has been established, we will have a real debate. In Poland many firms left because exploitation is not profitable
II)Shale gas : An environmental disaster?
Now, that we have the necessary perspective, the harmful effect of shale gas on the environmental can no longer be denied. In the film ‘Gasland’, we see a lot of groundwater pollution and that air quality in unpopulated regions is disastrous. The process of extraction is criticized because fracking is used. For fracking water, grit and chemical products are used : It destroys the environment.
Furthermore, there are many studies that show it’s impact on the environment.
However, in the USA it can be seen that the exploitation of shale gas is made without control and with a totally different legislation than French legislation. Thus, for the following reasons, we will have a different opinion on the environmental impact.
-In France, unlike in the USA, the State is the owner of the subsoil
-The legislation is France is more strict about environmental protection.
-And in France there is less unpopulated land than in the USA.
Things could be totally different especially with stricter ruler.
But, we agree that the exploitation is a risk for the environment and the nearby population
alike. However some studies show that, for the same amount of produced energy, the CO2 emission during the exploitation is 50% lower than coal. And emitted methane has a lifetime of 20 years, whereas CO2 has a lifetime of 100 years.
But on this matter different studies show different conclusions.
III)The exploitation of shale gas could become an important part of the energetic transition.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to look back: During the twentieth century the exploitation of natural resources has led to environmental disasters; but from an economic point of view, it was profitable. Without coal energy, that made the invention of new technologies possible, we would not have wind energy or solar energy.
During difficult economic times in France, it’s possible that the exploitation of shale gas could revive the economy (in part). Many studies show that the impact on the economy is negligible but that it exists. It is rather unlikely to have the same economic situation in France and in the USA.
For the energy transition we need to invest resources in renewable energy but the French government is restrained due to the difficult economic situation in France. In light of this situation, the end of nuclear energy is far and the development of sustainable energy is limited
In Germany, for instance, coal power plants have been reopened. Would not the exploitation of shale gas make the energy transition faster and more effective ?
In conclusion, today, it is difficult to exploit shale gas in France, because we don’t know if there is a lot of shale gas. Furthermore, for now fracking remains dangerous for the population and the environment.
On the other hand, shale gas is a opportunity for the economy in the service of the energetic transition.
Bibliography and sources :
- Reportages : Gasland http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhnrHCHVHu4
- France 5 : Les lobbys contre attaque: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF_UJRKlw9w
- EU Shale gas Risk or opportunitu : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag9GUogWEa0
- New york time “ the right way to Develop Shale Gas: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/opinion/the-right-way-to-develop-shale-gas.html?_r=0
- Los angeles Time “ Pressure builtds against France’s ban on Fracking http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-france-fracking-20140622-story.html#page=1