Though many in Germany protest shale excavation, German Chancelor Angela Merkal's government has agreed to allow shale drilling. (Source: The Local DE)
Less than a week after German Chancelor Angela Merkel urged her nation to tread lightly when deciding a future for the shale gas that lies below Europe's biggest economy, Germany’s government has agreed to allow shale drilling, provided it doesn’t harm the environment.
According to a joint letter from Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and Economy Minister Philipp Roesler obtained by Bloomberg News, the new regulations protect water that lies in water protection areas and nearby drinking water wells. Along with protecting the environment, this would also allow for environmental impact studies that would be required for all new projects. The ministers believe this will create a “unified legal situation.”
“This offers a good perspective for the future even if we should wait to see the actual progress,” Roesler said in a statement e-mailed today by his ministry in Berlin. While fracking offers “significant opportunities, we must always keep in view possible effects on the environment.”
With federal elections slated for September 22, the hotly debated topic has spilled over into politics, dividing the nation. The Social Democrats want fracking to be temporarily banned, while the Green Party seeks to outlaw the oil-extraction technique all together. Though Altmaier previously stated that he wanted to ban fracking, it seems that Germany is now on its way to tapping into its vast energy reserves.
The decision does echo Merkel’s plan to guide Germany toward energy independences, but is far from the renewable energy her government has advocated.
Germany's BGR Institute for Geoscience and Natural Resources has said 0.7 trillion to 2.3 trillion cubic meters of shale gas could be extracted from beneath German soil with most of the shale located in north-western Germany.
Germany produces only 14 percent of the gas it consumes, leaving room for shale natural gas to boost the nation’s reserves and drive gas prices down.
The government is opening the door to a potentially harmful technique, Oliver Krischer, a Green Party lawmaker, told Bloomberg. “Excluding drinking water protection areas is just for show,” Krischer said in an e-mailed statement. “It means that fracking is allowed on more than 80 percent of Germany’s landmass.”
“We must ensure that [fracking] doesn’t become the next subject of angst,” Kurt Bock, CEO of the world’s largest chemicals maker BASF, told the Financial Times. The biggest portion of BASF’s sales and earnings come from its oil and gas business.