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France wants to ban oil production in symbolic step

Americans are projected to use a record amount of natural gas to power their homes in 2016.

France's government has unveiled a law to ban all production and exploration of oil and natural gas by 2040 on the country's mainland and overseas territories.

The move is largely symbolic, however, as France's oil and gas production represents just 1 percent of national consumption — the rest is imported.

A ban on oil and gas production would follow a July announcement that France would prohibit the sale of gasoline and diesel cars after 2040. The U.K. revealed a similar plan just weeks later. Also, France expects to stop generating electricity from coal by 2022, though coal accounts for only 5% of the country’s total output.

Current drilling permits will not be renewed, according to the bill formally presented in a Cabinet meeting Wednesday. France currently has 63 oil and gas drilling projects on its territory.

The ban, which the government claims is a world first, is part of a larger plan to wean the country's economy from fossil fuels, encourage clean energy and fulfill France's commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement to curb global warming.

French President Emmanuel Macron praised it as "an important step to fulfill our international commitments."

The bill, which was elaborated by Environment minister Nicolas Hulot, also includes a definitive ban on all shale gas exploration and extraction. Until now, only hydraulic fracturing, a process known as fracking, was banned. All other potential methods are now to be prohibited as well.

Hulot said it is important for France to maintain its leadership on climate-related issues following the Paris Agreement signed in 2015.

"I have absolute faith in the capacity of renewable energies to become progressively a very important source to fulfill our energy needs", he said in a news conference.

Greenpeace France said in a statement the bill sets a "good goal" but doesn't go far enough. The environmental organization notes that the extension of an offshore exploration permit in French Guiana was maintained.

In this case, Hulot said the existing permits "will be maintained to avoid legal conflicts."

Francis Duseux, president of the French oil lobby UFIP, said it would have been better to keep producing oil and gas in France rather than rely exclusively on imports, because in any case France's economy will still rely on fossil fuels in 2040.

"Energy transition will take time," he said on Europe 1 radio.

Duseux estimated that oil drilling on French territory supports 4,500 to 5,000 jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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