14 Mar 2022, 13:56
Sören Amelang

German government debates new oil and gas production in North Sea


Germany's coalition government ponders the possibility of new drilling for gas and oil in the North Sea as a step towards more independence from Russian imports. Finance minister Christian Lindner from the Free Democrats (FDP) said the coalition should urgently revisit its agreement to ban such new drilling. "We must question the coalition agreement's commitment not to continue oil and gas extraction in the North Sea," Lindner told newspaper Tagesspiegel, adding that Germany must reassess its entire energy strategy without taboos. The Greens said they are open to the proposal under certain conditions. "We are assessing if and under what conditions an increase in oil and gas production in Germany is possible in the short term," said state secretary Oliver Krischer. But he added other steps to lower demand in the short term must also be considered, primarily a general speed limit on the country's autobahns, which Lindner rejected. "Given high petrol prices, there is a natural impulse to consume less," Lindner said, adding that drivers could step off the gas voluntarily.

The business association of natural gas, petroleum and geo-energy (BVEG) said it was not possible to increase gas production in the short term. "We shouldn't promise too much," BVEG head Ludwig Möhring told energate magazine. He added a slight increase in production was possible in the medium term with support from policymakers, society and authorities. Environmental NGO Greenpeace called the proposal to increase domestic oil and gas production a "smokescreen," given that domestic oil production in the North Sea currently only covers about two percent of Germany's demand. "Even if all currently known oil deposits in the German North Sea were to be developed, the quantities assumed to exist there could only cover Germany's current oil demand for about two months." Greenpeace added that the remaining deposits are located in the strictly protected Wadden Sea national park and warned possible oil spills would have catastrophic consequences for this unique ecosystem.

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