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French president vows no fracking for shale gas

French president Francois Hollande has said that “as long as I am president, there will be no exploration for shale gas in France”.

He was speaking on French television yesterday as France’s top court was this week due to hear an appeal against a government ban on fracking from US firm Schuepbach Energy, which had two exploration permits that were cancelled when the ban was introduced in 2011.

The International Energy Agency believes France has vast reserves of shale gas but Hollande – whose government includes members of the Green Party – has maintained throughout his presidency that he will not allow drilling to begin on French soil.

As in many other European countries there are strong lobby groups for and against shale gas, but Hollande – whose term of office runs out in 2017 – yesterday reaffirmed his position and stated: “The debate on shale gas has gone on for too long.”

And he added: “What is shale gas? Is it an Eldorado that just needs to be drilled?”

In the UK, fracking is poised to get underway, backed by generous tax incentives from the government.

Dan Byles, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Unconventional Oil & Gas, said of Hollande’s decision: “It is regrettable that domestic politics in France relating to the Green Party has led to President Hollande’s decision to rule out exploration for shale gas.”à‚ 

He added that while “this decision may be seen as unhelpful for Europe as a whole, it does provide the UK with an opportunity to lead the way in continuing to develop transparent, evidence based discussions around the issue of unconventional oil and gas development in the UK”.