France To Ban New Oil And Gas Drilling As Part Of Clean Energy Drive

Oil is on its way out, but gas may put up more of a fight. curraheeshutter/Shutterstock

France’s environment minister Nicolas Hulot has announced that the Republic is to place a moratorium on new oil and natural gas exploration licenses, effectively banning the practices for the time being. This move asymmetrically mirrors the actions of the current US government, which has just restarted such exploratory measures.

As reported by France24, Hulot said that no new hydrocarbons will be sourced from French territories as of this coming autumn, when the law is passed. This doesn’t mean, however, that current ongoing oil and gas drilling will stop, which the minister argues will bring about costly legal action from the energy industry.

He also announced that he would pursue tax reform that would bring the low price of diesel up to the cost of petrol at the pumps. For years, the cheapness of diesel means that drivers have been opting for diesel-powered vehicles; consequently, the air quality in major metropolitan areas has dropped.

France is already a remarkably environmental country. Despite being one of the most populous and wealthy, it has a proportionally low greenhouse gas output primarily thanks to its heavy investment in nuclear power.

This latest announcement, although not as ambitious as some would hope, is a sign that the freshly installed government isn’t just walking the walk when it comes to further environmental protection measures.

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As America divides itself between states looking to uphold the Paris agreement and a federal government that is content to stick its fingers in its ears and shout as loudly as possible, the rest of the world is forging towards a low-carbon future. China and the European Union in particular have agreed to work closely together on this issue, and France is emerging as a leading light in this pact.

The previous French government already vowed to shut down all of its coal plants by the mid-2020s, but now Emmanuel Macron occupies the Élysée Palace, and he’s going all out to protect the planet.

So far, he’s appointed a prominent environmental activist as the country’s environmental minister and offered four-year research grants for American climate scientists that are seeking an exodus from their beleaguered nation, all while asking the world to “make our planet great again” – see what he did there?

This latest move doesn’t come as any sort of surprise, but it’s enormously welcome nonetheless. With a sweeping and unassailable majority in the French Parliament, the Macron administration has plenty of chances to easily push through sweeping reforms on the environment.

Let’s hope they do. After all, the more that France – and the EU as a whole – can act as a climate counterbalance to the US, the better off the world will be.

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