I don’t buy the Watermelon theory that Greens are just closet Reds, and that environmentalism is some secret plot to impose soviet-style socialism on the world. It’s a Heath Robinson kind of idea, at once oversimplified and too complicated to explain anything. Right wing libertarians of the Delingpole school are naturally suspicious of social science, confusing it with socialism, and hence end up having no idea how society works. (The summit of ignorance was of course attained by Maggie Thatcher with her famous remark about there being no such thing as society).
Another thing I don’t do is comment on French politics, though I live there and even vote there. That’s going to change, as ecology and the economy are about to move centre stage here in an almighty clash of the kind which brings down governments.
It’s a complicated story, so please be patient.
The Greens have a dozen seats in parliament and a couple of junior ministers in the government – a gift from the socialist President for having delivered their 3% vote to him in the second round of the recent presidential election. They’re already at odds with the government of which they’re members, the treehuggers having stopped the building of an airport in the Prime Minister’s own constituency by camping on site, which provoked the kind of violent confrontations between peasants and the militarised national police force which is often fatal to a left-wing government.
The same demonstrators will undoubtedly stop any shale gas exploration, particularly as, by a nice irony, French shale gas is located under the Larzac plateau, scene of huge demonstrations back in the eighties against nuclear weapons, a conflict which ended with President Mitterand handing the military land over to co-operatives of sheep farmers. The French naturally side with demonstrators against the authorities. A clash between peasants protecting the environment and gas prospectors (possibly American) would be a nightmare for any French government.
A post today at Bishop Hill
led me, via the twitters of Nick Grealy to a most interesting article at
Shale gas and steel production are locked in a virtuous circle which is behind the current revival of US industry. Cheap gas makes US steel production competitive, and gas production uses enormous amounts of steel tubing.
Here in France, shale gas and steel are two of the headline stories which risk bringing the socialist government into conflict with the far left, which includes the Greens and the Left Front, whose leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon describes himself as an “eco-socialist” and who collected a respectable 11% of the votes in the recent presidential election. He was opposed to the government’s plans for the now mothballed airport, is opposed to all shale gas exploration and is championing the Lorraine steelworkers who have been locked in a bitter dispute with Arcelor Mittal over the planned closure of two foundries.
The government intervened, with the industry ministry famously declaring that Indian millionaire Lakshmi Mittal was not welcome in France, and promising to nationalise the site. The dispute was finally settled without either closure or nationalisation, but the Lorraine steelworkers, supported by the far left, claim they’ve been betrayed by the government. And the future of the site is dependent on European Union funding for a massive 600 million euro scheme to test out carbon capture on the site, a scheme which, if it works, might possibly deliver a less “polluting” steel industry in fifteen to twenty years time, and one which, it is claimed, will be competitive because of being less heavily taxed via Carbon Credits.
Meanwhile, in the NoHotAir article linked above, it is reported that at a recent World Shale Fair in Poland, the only European steel company present was a French one, which has just opened a new steelworks – in Ohio.
The French leftwing government wants desperately to protect French industry, but is absolutely incapable of delivering the cheap gas which would make it possible. Allowing frakking would provoke a civil war on the left. Public opinion tends to support protesters far more readily in France than in other countries. A combination of anti-frakking peasants and anti-foreign-ownership steelworkers would have unanimous support across the political spectrum. The Greens and eco-socialists will be seen as heroes, even as they destroy the French economy. Heavy industry will go where the cheap gas is, first to Poland, maybe even to Britain.
This has the makings of a real catastrophe. Just what the EU needs as it enters a triple dip recession.
And all because of climate change.