Will fracking be permitted in Germany?

Reichstag, Germany
Source: DollarPhotoClub

The German government has taken a step towards overturning a moratorium on fracking in the country that has been in place since 2011. The new draft law allows fracking in shale and coal bed rock starting at a depth of 3,000 metres with fracking on shallower depths subject to an approval of a six-person expert panel, created explicitly for the purpose.

The development was welcomed by shale gas lobbies but caused anger among environmentalists.

“Fracking in shale and coal bed deposits is related to considerable risks for the water table and the stability of the subsoil. Allowing it now is incomprehensible,” Sascha Müller-Kraenner, federal managing director of the German environmental relief organisation Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) told the Euracive portal.

“Instead of making efforts to research and support further fossil fuel resources in Germany, the German government should concentrate on consistent implementation of the Energiewende,” he said.

However, some politicians argue that the new measure is there to protect the environment, and is completely in line with the Energiewende – a German blueprint for transition towards greener economy, which comprises objectives such as fighting climate change, reducing energy imports, and ensuring energy security.

“It is important to have a legal framework for hydraulic fracturing as until now there has been no legislation on the subject,” Maria Krautzberger, president of Germany’s federal environment agency (UBA), told the Guardian.

“We have had a voluntary agreement with the big companies that there would be no fracking but if a company like Exxon wanted, they might do it anyway as there is no way to forbid it,” she said. “This is a progressive step forward.”

According to a pro-shale lobby group, Shale Gas Europe, Germany has 2.3 trillion cubic metres of estimated domestic shale gas reserves, but the country – which is the economic powerhouse of Europe – relies in 40 per cent on imports of Russian gas. Developing domestic unconventional resources would certainly strengthen Germany’s energy security.

“The reality is that Germany needs to ensure security of supply,” said Marcus Pepperell, a spokesman for Shale Gas Europe. “That is what is driving the debate, and this is a pragmatic approach that allows Germany to respond to its energy requirements by exploring shale gas reserves with fracking.”

The law, which would only affect hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and tight gas in water protection and spring healing zones, is expected to be put to a vote in the Bundestag in May.

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