Roland Lescure, the Minister of Energy, said he was in favor of the opening of eight new oil wells in the Arcachon basin. But France has committed to no longer producing fossil energy in 2040.
France should authorize the opening of eight new oil wells in Gironde. The Minister of Energy, Roland Lescure, confirmed it this Sunday, while opponents of the project demonstrated in Bordeaux.
There were a little more than a thousand protesting against the exploitation of new oil wells this Sunday in Bordeaux. And among these demonstrators, the most famous environmental activist in the world. The Swedish Greta Thunberg, who is now 21 years old, and who chanted slogans in French against the oil industry.
In this case, it is the project of a Canadian company that environmentalists are contesting. The Vermillon company, the leading oil producer in France, already operates around fifty wells around the Arcachon basin. There are some at the tip of Cap Ferret and in the territory of the commune of La Teste-de-Buch.
The Canadians applied for a permit to exploit eight additional wells, specifying that they were small wells with modest yields. It is the prefect of Gironde who must soon give his answer. But there is little doubt that it will be favorable since the Minister of Industry and Energy, Roland Lescure, spoke out this Sunday in favor of this authorization.
However, France is committed to moving away from fossil energy production. It was the Hulot law which enacted it at the start of Emmanuel Macron’s first five-year term. France has committed to no longer exploiting oil wells on its territory, but not immediately, by 2040. Until then, no new research permits will be granted. But until then, exploitation continues and those who have permits can apply to increase their production and dig new wells. This is therefore what will be granted to the Vermillon company in La Teste-de-Buch.
France boasts of being the first country in the world to have decided to stop oil production on its territory. Which is undoubtedly true, but which is not a huge sacrifice since France imports 99% of the oil it needs and only produces 1% of its consumption, mainly in the Paris basin and the Aquitaine basin.
Production of 1 billion liters per year in France
The first French reserves were discovered in the 1920s, but they have only really been exploited since the 1960s and especially the 1970s, after the oil crisis. In 2017, it was estimated that oil reserves remained for 28 years, at the rate they were being exploited. This means that we expected to have emptied the reserves by 2045. By deciding to cease mining in 2040, we therefore did not deprive ourselves of a huge source of income.
French production is not much, but not nothing either… With 1% of our consumption, it seems little, but it is still 20,000 barrels per day, or 3 million liters. A little over 1 billion liters per year, that’s quite a few tanks of gasoline. It is also a sector which employs around 30,000 employees. This is the main argument put forward this Sunday by Roland Lescure. Bringing forward the end of exploitation would be detrimental to these employees. And the minister emphasizes that the French will consume this oil anyway. So if we stop producing it, it will have to be imported, which pollutes more.
But it is still a symbolic measure. Because opening new oil wells in France, in the heart of this Landes forest which burned in 2022, is not neutral. Roland Lescure was questioned about Greta Thunberg’s opposition to his project. He replied: “The time for whistleblowers is over.” This is furiously reminiscent of Nicolas Sarkozy’s little phrase who said: “Ecology is starting to do well.” This sentence marked a turning point. We will see if the oil wells in the Arcachon basin mark another one…