Two front-runners in the race for the centre-right ticket in France’s 2022 presidential vote took aim at wind farms on Monday, as the conservatives seek to win back the support of rural voters drawn towards the far-right.
Xavier Bertrand, a one-time insurance salesman from the provinces, said profit-hungry wind farm developers were destroying the French countryside and that France’s energy security lay with nuclear power.
Michel Barnier, the European Union’s former chief Brexit negotiator, said local backing would be needed for new wind power developments were he to be elected president.
“I will fight against the anarchic development of wind turbines,” Bertrand said during a debate between the five challengers for the Les Republicains party’s nomination.
Citing the need to scale up the infrastructure rapidly for electric vehicles, Bertrand continued: “You think we’re going to do it with those damn wind turbines?”
Opposition to wind farms has coursed through the hills and fields of France for some two decades and the issue has become increasingly politicised as the government strives to hit climate policy targets.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Rassemblement National party, last month said she would end all subsidies for renewable energy and take down the country’s wind turbines if she is elected next April.
Bertrand said he would commission 10 new EPR nuclear reactors on his first day as president if he were elected. Valerie Pecresse, another challenger for the centre-right ticket, said she would commission six new reactors but added that renewable energy sources must be developed.
Early in his presidency, President Emmanuel Macron pledged to reduce nuclear’s contribution to France’s energy mix to 50% from 75% by 2035. But the energy crisis is changing the mood in Paris. Macron is expected to announce several new EPRreactors in the coming weeks.
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