A mention that www.shalegasinfo.eu will be up and running later this week, lots more on that and the future of No Hot Air soon.
In between working on that site, and preparing for a trip to Houston this week it's becoming increasingly obvious that France is going to play a big role in gaining public acceptance of shale in Europe. I can also see that public acceptance in the US, as we saw from the discussion of shale's PR problems for ExxonMobil last week, won't be hurt by any positive news from France either. France is held in high regard in places like Bucks County PA, upstate New York, the Upper West Side of Manhattan etc, where the opposition to shale has been loudest. On places like West 96th Street, a few blocks from Josh Fox of Gasland's main residence, they hold up France's shale ban as vindicating. But first we've seen the UK's green light on shale and I think it's a mistake to think that France has banned shale gas for even the short term.
This report from the French Senate ahead of a debate on June 1 where they will offer amendments to the National Assembly's recent law banning shale, shows that those who think that French shale is dead need to think again. The report is written by Senator Houel, who represents the Seine-et-Marne, where the Paris Basin gas is located. One thing that caught my eye:
Celui-ci souligne ainsi que l’enjeu énergétique, qui entre dans les trois piliers du développement durable (protection de l’environnement, développement économique, progrès social), n’est pas suffisamment pris en compte par le texte tel qu’adopté par l’Assemblée nationale.
This underlines how the energy issue, which involves three pillars of sustainable development (environmental protection, economic development, social progress), is not sufficiently taken into account by the text as adopted by the National Assembly.
Wise words that we should use. Environmental protection and carbon reduction are only one of the three pillars. Gas can reduce carbon by 50 to 70%, but not by 100%, and even nuclear, CCS and renewables don't do that either. Gas does have substantial advantages however in economic development and social progress. Social progress is certainly the Achilles Heel of the NIMBY brigade. Much of the opposition in places like Pennsylvania comes from the weekend residents or drop ins who choose to act like organic goatherd/ peasants compared to the local permanent population who have never had an option but to live like peasants.
Another sign of the debate in France opening up in ways that we'd like to see in English, is this from popular science magazine Pour la Science:
Les réserves de gaz de roche sont importantes et suscitent des espoirs. Peut-on les exploiter sans nuire à l'environnement ? La question reste ouverte.
Shale gas reserves are important and raise hopes. Can we exploit them without harming the environment? The question remains open.
We are now moving to the next level in gaining public acceptance. Instead of closed questions, we can see that the future will be about opening the minds of the majority as well as converting as many minds of the noisy minority as possible.