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Monday, May 14, 2012

France’s Pennsylvania Connection

What happens in Pennsylvania doesn’t stay in Pennsylvania. 

Europe’s third-biggest oil company Total wants the incoming administration of Socialist President Francois Hollande to take a fresh look at rules barring exploration and production of shale gas resources in France.  Last June, French lawmakers voted to outlaw fracking, making France the first country in the world to enact such a ban.  (Earlier this year, Bulgaria became the second nation to enact a ban, reacting to nationwide protests.)  French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the time that the ban would remain in effect until there is proof that shale gas exploration won’t harm the environment or “massacre” the landscape.

And as I wrote here, Pennsylvania’s experience with Marcellus Shale development is serving as a cautionary tale to the world.  I heard that directly from visiting French legislators, and from officials from several other European counties when they came to Pennsylvania for a first-hand look.
Total alone is producing natural gas from the Barnett Shale field in Texas, and plans to develop unconventional gas in Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Denmark and Poland.  Allaying the concerns about fracking should be viewed by Total and the gas industry generally as the path of least resistance to global development of shale gas resources - the path to a win-win-win for the environment, the economy, and shareholders. 

What happens in Pennsylvania doesn’t stay in Pennsylvania.  Until the gas industry fully embraces that notion, it will find the path to shale gas development strewn with obstacles and wreckage of its own making.

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