About the SA Blog Network



Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
Observations HomeAboutContact

France becomes first country to ban extraction of natural gas by fracking

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

The French parliament voted on June 30 to ban the controversial technique for extracting natural gas from shale rock deposits known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the web sites of Le Monde and other French media reported.

The bill had already passed the National Assembly, the country’s lower chamber, on June 21, and on June 30 a Senate vote of 176 to 151 made France the first country to enact such a ban, just as New York State is preparing to lift a moratorium on the same method.

The vote was divided along party lines, with the majority conservative party voting in favor and the opposition voting against the bill, according to Le Monde. The Socialist Party, in particular, opposed the bill because it did not go far enough. The bill’s critics said that it left open possible loopholes and that in particular it does not prevent the exploitation of oil shale deposits by techniques other than fracking. An earlier version of the bill, which the Socialists had supported, would have banned any kind of development of the deposits, Le Monde reported.

Companies that currently own permits for drilling in oil shale deposits on French land will have two months to notify the state what extraction technique they use. If they declare to be using fracking, or if they fail to respond, their permits will be automatically revoked.

Fracking requires the injection of vast quantities of water and potentially hazardous chemicals into the ground to force the release of natural gas. The U.S. government is investigating the environmental impact of the technique, which critics say produces toxic waste and pollutes water wells.


Rights & Permissions

Comments 27 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. letxequalx 2:10 am 07/1/2011

    France doesn’t need fracturing – they have made an intense commitment to nuclear power.

    Link to this
  2. 2. JamesDavis 7:19 am 07/1/2011

    ‘letxequalx’: America doesn’t need fracturing neither, and only greed stupid states in the U.S. engage in it…states that value a dollar over human health and life.

    Link to this
  3. 3. drafter 11:02 am 07/1/2011

    "An earlier version of the bill, which the Socialists had supported, would have banned any kind of development of the deposits" Proof that even if a person were to develope a perfect system that did no harm the Socialist would still deny it’s use. It’s not about the environment it’s about the control of people by denying them the use of resources.

    Link to this
  4. 4. shorewood 2:47 pm 07/1/2011

    There they go again!

    The evidence against fraccing is negligible.

    Natural gas is an excellent energy source. Probably the best we have for the next few decades.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Cramer 3:22 pm 07/1/2011

    drafter claims that the motives of France’s Socialist Party is "about the control of the people" and not about the environment.

    drafter’s "proof" of their motives is not scientific. He uses a demonizing fantasy (deny the use of a hypothetical perfect resource) without even knowing why the Socialist Party and The Greens rejected the bill.

    They are concerned about the wording of the bill that has loopholes which will actually allow hydraulic fracturing to proceed. Is there any other commercially viable way to develop shale gas other than fracking? The only other way is to rely on natural fractures which is not very profitable. Oil shale extraction, processing, and use also have major environmental impacts relative to other resources.

    I am not arguing in support or opposition to shale development. I am merely pointing out the ridiculously fallacious argument of demonizing one’s opponents that people like Drafter use.

    Link to this
  6. 6. David Russell 1:27 am 07/2/2011

    France is learning that storing the waste is not as easy as it was sold to be. We are not ready for deep drill oil development and really not ready for nuclear fission reactors until we learn how to deal with the waste products. If you don’t agree then move to Japan where they are finding out how little prepared we are and if you stay keep your eyes on Los Alamos NM because it is on the verge of disaster. Also with the flooding of the Mississippi we are seeing similar results.

    We could power the world for ever if we learn to harness solar, geothermal, wind and tidal forces but big oil would lose out and that simply won’t do will it?

    Link to this
  7. 7. David Russell 1:33 am 07/2/2011

    Have you seen the water coming out of home taps that is flamable. What kind of proof are you looking for maybe your family being affected by the chemicals that are added to the material used to create the fraccing. I hate this because it sounds too much like fractal which is probably the most important math ever discovered by man. Manderbolt I miss you.

    Link to this
  8. 8. TobyNSaunders 8:41 am 07/2/2011

    That is excellent; clearly, green tech is not being pursued as much as it should be because the oil & gas industries are the most wealthy on Earth, ever on Earth, & competing against that kind of money is almost laughable… we’re doing it, but it’s an uphill battle to go green regarding energy… uphill meaning totally vertical.

    Link to this
  9. 9. TobyNSaunders 8:43 am 07/2/2011

    No, socialism is not about destruction… we have public (socialist) roads in the US, not because we are being controlled, but because that is the best way to let people get around. It isn’t rocket science; it is social science.

    Link to this
  10. 10. David Russell 10:46 am 07/2/2011

    You know i keep hearing how bad socialism is. Communism as implemented in the USSR, Republic of China and North Korea is another name for dictatorship. Most of Europe is working under some form of socialism and I would say that us being number 38 on the scale of life styles speaks for itself. Do you think that a person making life and death decisions for people that is financially dependent on stock holders and dividends is going to make a better decision than a professional that is hired by the state for making the right decision. The reason resources such as your local DMV are what they are is because of the resistance to socialism even though that is the only logical answer.

    Right now in Arizona the governor is in bed with a company I think called CPP which is a privatized corrections company. To make profits it behooves the company to have more people arrested ergo the new anti alien act just passed. Blackwater got so bad a reputation it had to change it’s name and is banned from several countries. Additionally I have real issues with a person being paid 5 or 6 times when the grunt in the fox hole is doing the same job. I also don’t like mercenaries because they lead to bad wars such as Iraq which is now looking like a 4 trillion dollar fiasco and believe me when we leave the Shia’s will take over meaning in so many words Iran wins and we and Israel lose.

    I have heard little praise for the takedown of Bin Laden and I personally hope we have him alive and in rendition for the rest of his miserable life. But I digress.

    What does make some kind of sense is that we provide services through public means and provide goods (toys, cars, non essentials products and especially food) through private systems but with government regulations so we don’t end up selling lead bearing toys.

    Property is a natural need but if a country claims to be great then it should provide for the general welfare of its people. That would be health, education and some kind of safe housing. We started as a republic but Andy Jackson turned us into a democracy and they are destined to fail. But the type of government should have little to do with economic systems and for example look at communist China. I don’t want to become China or Venezuela but as we rip our middle class out we become closer to those two countries and the story does not end up well.

    Link to this
  11. 11. David Russell 8:53 pm 07/4/2011

    Please read this article. It is our way out of this mess

    No one has picked up on it yet and this is knowledge since the mid 90′s.

    Link to this
  12. 12. rabarker 11:08 pm 07/6/2011

    I wish these comments didn’t always veer off into our polarized politics. I haven’t yet seen conclusive evidence about fracking either way… "Gasland" vs T Boon Pickens is not a very rational way to frame an energy conversation. France depends heavily on nuclear, which Germany has just sworn to abandon. I wonder how these modern economies will be powered as they limit their options. And, if they can do it on a few percent of our landmass, will we learn from their experience??

    Link to this
  13. 13. radobozov 6:14 am 07/7/2011

    There is no need for drilling. Natural gas can be synthesized on grounds like methanogens do it. When will societies enter 21st century?

    Link to this
  14. 14. David Russell 11:11 am 07/7/2011

    You have not read have you.

    Link to this
  15. 15. 2008RealityCheck 5:37 pm 07/7/2011

    The EU is about to collapse and two key countries are accelerating the demise of their economies by abandoning nuclear (Germany) and cheap natural gas (France).

    All the better for the US to compete.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Wayne Williamson 7:48 pm 07/7/2011

    I doubt it…no more than the USA is about default on its debt;-)

    Link to this
  17. 17. David Russell 4:34 pm 07/8/2011

    Well that would seem like which way we are going unless Germany is going to throw all of Europe off the bus and Texas becomes part of the EU oh I meant PU.

    Link to this
  18. 18. David Russell 4:36 pm 07/8/2011

    France is backing off nuclear since the fiasco in Japan and the lack of suitable storage issues. We should all learn and putting natural gas and who knows what else in your tap water doesn’t impress me an inch.

    Link to this
  19. 19. David Russell 4:40 pm 07/8/2011

    Is a Plutocracy better than socialism. We lost our republic a long time ago and democracies as a rule don’t last more than 200 years and we have arrived.

    Link to this
  20. 20. David Russell 10:19 pm 07/8/2011

    We are giving rocket scientist a head start in countries like China, Iran, Europe and Japan. Thank God US space is not hindered anymore by the chains of congress and NASA. We should be manufacturing in high earth orbit (stationary supported by space elevators) and real science on the moon where it’s lack of atmosphere gives us very little interference from the atmosphere and magnetic shield the earth provides.

    Just the resolution in IR and UV that are impossible from earth. Plus all the mining in the moon would change its landscape about as much as the asteroids of 4 billion years ago did. But that too would require government subsidies and that must come from some sort of socialism. Oh well we made it to the moon before the days of Newt and nothing… Remember how Nixon couldn’t wait to kill the Moon program. I do.

    Link to this
  21. 21. David Russell 10:27 pm 07/8/2011

    Just in case someone says ‘Well Bush wanted to go to Mars’ my question would be how as he had already bankrupted our country by two badly fought wars and tax giveaways on borrowed Chinese money. He was having a feel good moment that day either liquid or nasal who really knows but congress always hits NASA funds first so Orion and Mars were fiction. Just like his justification to go to war against Iraq.

    Link to this
  22. 22. 1:29 am 07/10/2011

    Okay, I’m going to weigh in as a geologist. Not an oilfield geologist, mind you, so my understanding of hydraulic fracturing is very basic, but I think I can add at least something to the discussion.

    It seems to me that much of the discussion of hydraulic fracturing seems overblown and driven by larger agendas. It’s a technique to extract hydrocarbons from a tight formation, nothing more.

    The basic idea is to inject hydrocarbon-dissolving fluids and sand into a borehole drilled through the productive formation. The part of the borehole above the target formation, especially in shallow zones of potable groundwater, is a steel-cased and cement-grouted well. The applied pressure, if properly contained, promotes the spread of production-zone fractures within the vicinity of the well, the solvent helps open up fractures clogged with heavy oils and tars, and the sand props the widened fractures open once the pressure is removed. The net effect is to improve the efficiency and extend the radius of influence (and the useful life) of the well.

    The formations fracked, by their very candidacy for the process, are absolutely unusable for potable water. No one would ever willingly drink an oilfield brine. It stinks, and it’s loaded with naturally occurring toxic minerals, not to mention crude oil and/or natural gas.

    I’m not a petroleum engineer, but I understand that the fluids used in fracking are primarily diesel-range organic hydrocarbons – moderately toxic substances, but once again, we’re not talking about a usable groundwater aquifer here. Whatever proprietery additives are used, they are probably in small amounts relative to the diesel solvent, and I suspect that their proprietary nature is guarded by people like Baroid and Schlumberger because they are fairly common substances, relatively easy to duplicate by their competitors; not because of some evil scheme for world genocide.

    Now since the BP Macondo blowout and fiasco last year in the Gulf, we are all aware that a cemented and cased well is no guarantee of safety if the construction of the well is compromised and not thoroughly verified. So it seems to me that the effort and noisemaking should be directed at improving the quality and transparency of well-integrity verification, and emergency system testing, not at the process of fracking.

    Link to this
  23. 23. David Russell 3:58 am 07/10/2011

    That would be somewhat bearable if proper regulation was in place and where, what and when fracking could be carried out with no collateral damage. So far even in the basics we aren’t near the top and anything that involves oil has a lot of money in the pockets of out decision makers. Based on the current picture and punishment dished out when and offense is found says stop, take a break, learn how the feedback systems work in unit and system levels meaning it may look insignificant but the non linear effects are devastating. And by the statement I point to France who has realized there are problems but will end up letting fracking happen (remember the money and players involved) they rarely lose. Francs has also realized what a joke nuclear storage and waste processing really is. In most cases the engineering appears to be similar to what was in place in the 50′s.

    We are technology driven but not technically responsible or moral meaning in the end no morality, no ethics, no laws and a farce to satisfy regulation. Lead from China, the nuclear disaster caused in one of the most advanced nation by an issue any arm chair scientist would attest to inevitable. The Arctic will probably disappear in the summer and return to some degree in the winter but already countries are making claims to the assets buried in the Arctic Ocean so that will probably lead to war or higher interest on our debt.

    One last brilliant opportunity we provided our new and now real foe was we are bankrupt, tired and infective in middle east issues for what we are sure all the right reasons.

    We know Yellowstone is due to blow, Iceland is acting up, the entire chain of fire is hot and its tremors seem to be moving south west to north east and then it would be on our coast line. Seattle is a disaster waiting to happen that will make Katrina look like a bad day on wall street. These are real issues that need solutions and may provide opportunities also.

    Link to this
  24. 24. ormondotvos 4:30 pm 07/25/2011

    If nuclear waste can’t be stored safely underground, why can fracking chemicals be safely stored underground?

    Link to this
  25. 25. ormondotvos 4:35 pm 07/25/2011

    The real issue here boils down to whether we can trust drilling companies to do their job right, which boils down to how effective the inspectors and regulators are.

    You can merely observe the incredible pressure against the consumer safety commission to answer the last question.

    So , I’m against fracking until the inspection and regulation is fully funded and accepted. That would likely be never. The evidence is already in on that.

    Greed cuts corners, and the boom-like nature of fracking means many corners will be cut.

    Link to this
  26. 26. David Russell 9:06 am 07/26/2011

    Apples and oranges.

    Link to this
  27. 27. David Russell 9:08 am 07/26/2011

    You nailed it pretty well in that statement. That should apply to all technology.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article