Environment Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio Monday that Germany’s government is working to ensure the practice is subject to limits and he wouldn’t advise anyone to seek drilling licenses soon.
Maybe it’s peer pressure. Three of Germany’s neighbors have all suspended fracking (the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the Czech Republic). Germany’s Green Party tried to do the same in December, but Merkel’s coalition stepped in and stopped it. Still, as the Economist tells us, Deutsche drilling faces regional challenges: “North Rhine-Westphalia, the country’s most promising region for shale gas, suspended fracking last September pending research on the risks involved.”There are real environmental and geopolitical consequences to taking a hard line like this. Natural gas is one of the cleanest-burning fossil fuels. By dismissing it, Germany removes a large green component from its energy mix. That hole has to be filled with other sources of energy, like dirty-burning coal. On the geopolitical side, fracking could help Germany and the EU reduce their dependence on Russian natural gas.But even if Altmaier had gone on that radio program singing the praises of shale gas, Germany would still be well behind the U.S. The Economist reports that “[i]t may take five years to assess whether shale gas exists in commercial quantities, another five before production starts and then a few more before shale could provide a significant addition to supplies: in short, a fracking long time.”[Image courtesy of Shutterstock]