Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Looks Promising – but who can you trust?

4 OCTOBER  2011

ECOLOGY minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has cancelled three permits to drill for shale gas across large swathes of the south of France, including one by French oil giant Total.

The permits, granted by former ecology minister Jean-Louis Borloo in spring 2010, were cancelled after the companies involved –Total and US-based Schuepbach Energy – did not rule out using now-banned hydraulic fracturing to extract any gas found.

The permits were for vast regions known as Nant (Aveyron, Lozère and Hérault), Villeneuve-de-Berg in the Ardèche – which were held by Schuepbach – and Total’s Montélimar which stretches along the Rhône from the Drôme to the Gard and Montpellier.

Ms Kosciusko-Morizet’s decision comes as President Sarkozy visits the Gard today to celebrate Unesco’s classification of the Causses et Cévennes in its world heritage list.

 The thinking here at Schiste Towers is that this is as much about Sharkey’s positioning before next year’s presidential election as it is about protecting the environment. We must remember who was President and which party was in power when the permits were granted in the first place - Sarko and his centre-right UMP. He is slipping in the ratings. The socialist party (PS) recently won a majority in the Senate and are getting their act together after their front runner Dominique Strauss-Kahn shot himself in the foot and had to withdraw from the race. Sarko is a worried bunny.
The Jacobi law was intended to ban the expolitation of shale gas completely but was watered down and now only bans fracking. It is being challenged by the PS tomorrow (6 Oct) with a view to strengthening it. There is no doubt that yesterday's world heritage gimmick was to some extent designed to take the reduce the chances of the this challenge succeeding. The UMP can say the present law is doing the job and does not need strengthening. By leaving it in place it leave the door open for an uncertain future.

So while we can afford a brief moment of appreciation for a job well done (‘Well done all of you’) we can not relax as there is still a lot of money to be made and these gas companies will stop at nothing to get it. And no one knows what a future government will do. 

Watch this space…