As the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, becomes increasingly controversial, France has taken a major step in stopping the environmentally dangerous practice: The French Parliament has completely banned the extraction of oil and gas within any of the country’s territories. That means all fracking, oil drilling and other extraction methods are prohibited.
While the rule won't come into effect until 2040, it sends a strong message to other countries that the practice of oil extraction should be taken seriously. In the U.S., the idea that fracking is environmentally unfriendly is still up for debate among corporations and the government, both of which clash with environmentalists over the sustainability of the practice.
However, most evidence shows that the process is harmful. Designed to extract oil from within shale rock, the technique involves drilling down into the earth, then directing a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the area to release the gas. That already-poisonous mixture is further contaminated by the heavy metals and radioactive elements that exist naturally in the shale, and when the oil is extracted, the mixture becomes a byproduct that spills or flows into water ways and contaminates them.
This has become an issue across the U.S. where fracking is prevalent. In France, however, this is not such a big deal, making the ban mostly symbolic—the country imports 99 percent of the oil it consumes and extracts about as much in a year as Saudi Arabia does in a day.
Still, while the ban may not have a direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions, France hopes the law will inspire other European nations to do the same. Delphine Batho, a French lawmaker, told The Guardian that she hopes the ban will be “contagious" and President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants France to lead the world in fighting climate change by moving away from fossil fuels and into renewable sources, going so far as to offer grants to American climate scientists to conduct research with a government that recognizes the reality of climate change.
Further initiatives have included banning gas-powered vehicles by 2040, shift the energy economy away from fossil fuels and nuclear power, and combating food waste.