Berlin is preparing a new set of rules that will permit—with restrictions—the controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling technique. Fracking, as it’s more commonly called, allows drillers to profitably tap previously inaccessible reserves of oil and gas trapped in shale rock. Germany had imposed a de facto moratorium on fracking over the past two years, citing environmental concerns and pending new regulations, but it looks like Merkel’s coalition government is ready to get the shale ball rolling this summer. The FT reports:
Applications to carry out the controversial process for extracting the country’s estimated 2.3tn cubic metres shale gas reserves will be subject to an environmental impact assessment under new legislation to be discussed by the cabinet before the summer recess. […]Details of the new regulations emerged in a letter from Sigmar Gabriel, German economy minister, to the head of the Bundestag’s budget committee. In the letter, Mr Gabriel wrote that permission to carry out fracking would be subject to approval from regional water authorities and that “further requirements for the fracking permit process are still being considered”.
Germany isn’t flush with gas by any means, but Russia’s meddling in Ukraine has made it clear to Berlin that it needs to exploit more of its domestic resources. Add to that the fact that German consumers already pay some of Europe’s highest electricity prices (as a result of the country’s ill-conceived Energiewende), and this decision makes even more sense.Like every other country that has tried to replicate America’s success, Germany will still have to clear a number of hurdles as it races to catch up to the shale bandwagon. But fracking could help Berlin lower its dependence on the much browner coal, and in so doing become the green energy solution the country has been searching for.