The French economic expansion of the last fifteen years has benefited from the diversification of energy sources, with a marked increase in imports of liquid and gaseous fuels.
According to naturegnosis.com, the production of hard coal tends to decrease more and more (25.7 million t in 1973 but 55.3 million t in 1961) due to the well-known unfavorable natural characteristics, the poor quality of the mineral and the always accentuated difficulty to find labor, however compensated by immigration from Mediterranean countries. However, the modernization of the plants by the state and the technical progresses have been considerable (making work more rational and increasing productivity), so much so that the extraction yield is the strongest in Western Europe: an average of 4,837 kg of coal per day, for each miner. However, the high extraction costs, compared to the international level, and even more the scarcity of certain qualities, make it necessary to annual import of 1520 million tonnes of coal products, in particular from other EEC countries. About 70% (37% in 1960) of all energy consumed comes from the hydrocarbon sector today. The national production of crude oil, always coming from the fields of Parentis-en-Born, Lacq and the Paris basin (1.3 million tons in 1973, a quantity that was already extracted in 1958), is insignificant compared to internal consumption and therefore France has to import very large quantities (115-120 million tons). The oil, mostly from Algeria and the Near East (particularly from Kuwait and Iraq), is refined in a series of large plants located mainly in the Paris region and near the mouth of the Rhone: in Lavéra, near of Marseille, the Southern European oil pipeline (797 km) to Strasbourg and Karlsruhe (Federal Republic of Germany). Other pipelines connect the Atlantic port of Gonfreville and the Lacq area to the industrial areas of Paris and Bordeaux, respectively. The export of a considerable part of refined products helps to mitigate the financial burden of imports. On the other hand, the French methane production is relevant, which now exceeds 7.5 million m3. A widespread network of methane pipelines connects Lacq to Paris and to the large industrial centers of the Atlantic region and the Rhône valley: 40% of the methane extracted is absorbed by industry (especially chemical), 34% by thermal power stations, 24% is injected into the urban center network and 2% is used as fuel. A large quantity of sulfur is also obtained from the gas (1.8 million t). In order to increase domestic consumption, large quantities of gas were imported from the Netherlands and Algeria.
In the sector of energy sources, a high contribution is always given by electricity, both of water, thermal and nuclear origin. The intense exploitation of water resources, following a development plan implemented in the 1950s, a greater use of extracted coal in thermal power plants (particularly in Lorraine), and a general strengthening of the power plants as well as the construction of others have greatly increased production. of energy, which in recent years has been around 150 billion kWh (76.5 billion kWh in 1961), of which 49 billion are given by hydroelectric power plants. Three quarters of the energy produced is supplied by the state public body (Electricité de France); the remainder from the Compagnie Nationale du Rhône. From the production of water plants, 60% comes from the Alps, 20% from the Center and the rest from the Pyrenees and Alsace. About 60% of the thermal energy comes from state power plants, 22% from coal mining power plants and 18% from those of the steel industry. Finally, an ever-increasing role has been taken by the nuclear energy sector, which in addition to national uranium (for which France with 1200 tons per year is in fourth place in the world ranking), uses minerals imported from former colonies African (especially from Gabon). The first thermonuclear power plants of Marcoule and Avoine (1958-59) were followed by those of Chinon, Pierrelatte, Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux, Malvezy, La Hague, Le Bouchet, etc. The installed power is now around 3 million kW, while the production of nuclear energy is almost 14 billion kWh; it is foreseen that in the near future nuclear power plants will be able to cope, alone, with the increase in energy consumption. There are also four nuclear research reactors: in Saclay, Grenoble, Cadarache and Fontenay-aux-Roses.