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French press review 3 August 2013

French President François Hollande under pressure to reverse his policy against shale gas exploration, and millions of French hit the road to go on holidays...if they can get past the traffic jams. 

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The problem, according to Le Figaro, is that the European Union has ruled out imposing a blanket ban on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial shale gas extraction technique strongly opposed by the fractured and rebellious left-leaning coalition that brought Hollande to power. The method consists of using huge amounts of pressurised water mixed with sand and chemicals to crack open shale sedimentary rock, releasing natural gas trapped in the seams.

Le Figaro says the decision by neighbouring countries such as the United Kingdom and Poland to grant shale gas exploration rights to some US fuel giants more or less undermines the French argument that fracturing will contaminate fresh water resources.

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For the paper, it makes sense to reconsider the exploitation of cheaper shale gas at a time of rising energy prices. It points out that it is thanks to shale gas that the United States has been able to stage its economic comeback and shake up the petrochemical industry worldwide. Le Figaro also thinks Francois Hollande is compelled to flip flop again over his energy and agricultural policy as French farmers, industrialists and Socialist lawmakers pile pressure on him to lift the ban on the cultivation of genetically modified crops.

Libération warns that some oil companies are looking to take advantage of loop holes in the legislation banning shale petrol exploration in France. According to the paper, the anti-fracking law passed two years ago prohibits “fracturing”, not “drilling”. The left-leaning paper reports that the American firm Hess Oil and a Canadian consortium Vermillion have taken advantage of this loophole and launched shale gas exploration plants in the Seine et Marne, the Marne and the L’Aine departments in the suburbs of Paris.

Aujourd’hui en France is tracking millions of French families who hit the motorways this weekend in the most hectic week of the summer holiday season. The tabloid says it expects some 4 million travellers to be caught in traffic jams. It also explores the concerns and anxieties of struggling French workers hitting holiday destinations with limited resources and rising fuel prices.

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