France Moves To Ban Shale Gas Drilling

Lawmakers in France's lower house of parliament have voted to ban a controversial gas and oil drilling technique. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is widely used in the United States, but environmentalists say it can pollute ground water.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And lawmakers in France want to ban fracking. That's short for hydraulic fracturing, a controversial drilling technique used to extract gas from rock.

As Eleanor Beardsley reports, much of the opposition is fueled by what the French see happening in the U.S.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Josh Fox's documentary "Gasland," which explores the shale gas industry in the U.S., has had a huge impact in France.

(Soundbite of film, "Gasland")

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken).

Unidentified Man: Whoa. Jesus Christ.

BEARDSLEY: For those who missed the documentary, shocking excerpts like this one, showing flames coming out of a man's kitchen faucet, were rerun on the nightly news. France is said to contain large reserves of shale gas and last year the French government granted research licenses to several companies to explore them. But the government has been forced to backtrack because of a groundswell of opposition to the method, from environmentalists and the public.

Prime Minister FRANCOIS FILLON (France): (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Prime Minister Francois Fillon told the French parliament it was understandable that people were alarmed; given the experiences of countries like the U.S. French lawmakers say they are not closing the door completely on shale gas, but say other methods to extract it must be found.

For NPR news, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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