France’s decision late last year to ban fossil fuel production by 2040 is being treated as a largely symbolic move given its limited oil and gas output. But at least one analyst says the decision takes on more significance given the amount of carbon the country will be leaving in the ground in the decades ahead.
The December 19 parliamentary vote means that “no new permits will be granted to extract fossil fuels and no existing licences will be renewed beyond 2040, when all production in mainland France and its overseas territories will stop,” Agence France-Presse reports. But the direct implications are small, since “France extracts the equivalent of about 815,000 tonnes of oil per year—an amount produced in a few hours by Saudi Arabia.”
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On Grist, however, veteran meteorologist and climate hawk Eric Holthaus cites geoscientist Erik Klemetti’s conclusion that the decision keeps five billion barrels of oil in the ground over the longer haul.
“The Paris Basin, a region in northern France, may contain nearly as much underground petroleum as the huge Bakken Formation in North Dakota,” Holthaus writes. “Extracting that oil and gas would require extensive fracking,” potentially deliver a 100-year supply of oil, and net US$290 billion at today’s oil prices.
“Instead, France decided to say au revoir to oil and gas altogether,” after previously announcing a ban on internal combustion engines as of 2040.
“With decisions like these, France is positioning itself on the right side of history,” Holthaus notes. “And it’s sending a message to a world that’s floundering on climate change: A more just and prosperous future is possible, and it doesn’t require the dirty fuels of the past.”