24 Nov 2022, 13:44
Sören Amelang

Economy and finance ministers renew quarrel over gas fracking in Germany


Süddeutsche Zeitung

Germany’s economy ministry has renewed its rejection of the controversial "fracking" method to produce natural gas, in response to a call by the finance ministry to allow using the technology in Germany. “This does not lead to a sensible answer,” Green Party economy minister Robert Habeck said at a conference in Berlin, according to a report in Süddeutsche Zeitung. He added the technology would lead to all sorts of problems, and pointed to the south of England, where it had led to earthquakes and a subsidence of the ground. Free Democrat (FDP) finance minister Christian Lindner said at the same conference he was in favour of using the technology because it could make a substantial contribution to the country’s future energy security and competitiveness. Habeck acknowledged that it was not fair in principle to buy fracked gas from the U.S., while rejecting the technology at home. But he added the debate was “not helpful” given the particular circumstances in Germany, which included high costs, necessary changes in the law and public resistance.

The energy crisis has revived the debate over the controversial gas extraction method known as unconventional hydraulic fracturing – or simply fracking – as the country looks for alternatives to Russian supply. Hydraulic fracturing produces fractures in the rock formation to stimulate the flow of natural gas and increase the volumes that can be recovered. However, it does so by using chemicals and high amounts of pressure, which can lead to environmental damage.

There is significant opposition to the technology in Germany. Federal and regional governments in key states have made it very unlikely that the country will allow it even in the current crisis. As a result, it would likely take years until fracked gas could make a meaningful contribution to the country’s energy mix - meaning it will be of little help in the current energy crisis. Habeck and Lindner led similar arguments for months over the future use of nuclear energy in Germany, with Lindner in favour and Habeck against. In the end, chancellor Olaf Scholz intervened to settle the dispute with a limited runtime extension for the remaining nuclear plants.

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