France has become the first country in the world to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, used to mine for shale gas and oil.
The vote in the upper house, by a convincing 176 votes to 151, allows exploration to continue — something the Socialist party in opposition wanted to overturn.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, uses a high-pressure blast of millions of litres of water, sand and up to 200 chemicals to create a shockwave to break open cracks deep in the earth and force the gas out. These chemicals and the gas have been found to leak into water supplies.
Local politicians and environmentalists have been campaigning against the technique since March 2010 after a number of drilling licences were awarded in the south of France and around Paris.
Nevertheless, with energy prices rising and possible shale gas resources of up to 100 million cubic metres in the Paris basin and five billion cubic metres of shale gas in a bed across the south of France, Ecologist senator Jean Desessard is worried that banning fracking will simply lead to firms adopting another method that would be just as damaging to the environment.
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