France Wants to Take its Anti-Fracking Fight International

It’s not enough that France has banned fracking within its own borders—it now wants to ban the import of fracked shale gas from the United States. The Hill reports:

The issue has arisen because two companies, Électricité de France and Engie, have signed contracts to buy liquefied natural gas from the United States, where most of it comes from fracked wells. “I’m going to examine legally how we can prohibit the import of shale gas, and in any case, these businesses will have to shift towards other markets to import only conventional gas,” [French energy minister Ségolène Royal] said. […]

Royal said she would contact the two companies who want to import gas from the United States about her hopes to stop the imports. “I have asked the two companies why they weren’t vigilant, and I have also asked for an examination of a legal means for us to ban the import of shale gas,” she said.

The notion floated by France’s energy minister Ségolène Royal that companies interested in purchasing U.S. shale gas are somehow not being “vigilant” is, frankly, laughable. For these kinds of firms, where the gas comes from is a distant concern; price is the most important consideration. Thanks to a large glut of shale gas, U.S. prices are a downright steal at the moment. Liquifying these supplies and shipping them across the Atlantic will certainly add to their cost, but if these two French companies signed contracts to start importing American LNG, they did so because they saw it as a smart financial move.

For France (and the rest of Europe), American shale gas can be more than just a cheap source of energy—it can help shore up shaky energy security and reduce reliance on Russian supplies of natural gas. But for Royal, the environmental concerns surrounding the controversial drilling process outweigh these manifest benefits so much that Paris is now considering snubbing imports, as well as its own shale reserves. Never mind that shale gas displaces coal, cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half, or that the industry is actively innovating new ways to make its operations safer for the environment. Royal would rather throw all those considerations aside and cut off her nose to spite her face.

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