German government split over calls to lift fracking ban

Finance minister calls for shale gas to be extracted to tackle energy squeeze

Germany is facing an energy crisis this winter after cuts to gas imports. Getty
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Germany’s coalition government is facing another split over whether to pursue fracking.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner has called for the country to face the energy crisis “free of ideology” by drilling for shale gas at home.

But Green party MPs oppose the idea on the grounds it would increase fossil fuel production and lead to water pollution.

It is the latest problem to put the parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition at odds over the energy crisis.

Mr Scholz ended a weeks-long feud between the Greens and Mr Lindner's liberals by ordering three nuclear plants to stay on the grid until April.

The fracking issue has now reared its head after Mr Lindner called for a ban on shale gas drilling to be lifted.

“In Germany, we have considerable gas deposits that could be extracted without endangering drinking water,” he said.

“It would not be responsible to pass up on fracking because of ideological commitments.”

Germany has an estimated 481 billion cubic metres of shale gas reserves, fewer than France or Britain.

Its natural gas supplies have been squeezed by Russian cuts and the public have been urged to cut their energy use this winter.

A report in July said it would take years to begin extracting shale gas, but did not argue against the practice.

But Green MPs have rejected Mr Lindner’s initiative.

“Fracking is a very daft idea,” said Kathrin Henneberger, a Green MP elected last year.

“It endangers our already struggling groundwater, means more of the same with fossil fuels and so worsens the climate crisis.”

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has called for shale gas to be extracted. Reuters

Nina Scheer, an MP from Mr Scholz’s Social Democrats, said fracking would deprive renewable energy projects of financing.

Germany wants to cut emissions by expanding its use of wind and solar energy and promoting the use of public transport.

But it has made some moves to increase natural gas imports, most notably building terminals for liquefied gas on its northern coast.

Some of the gas imported to Germany through that route could come from fracking in the US.

Fracking was banned in Germany in 2017, except for four exploratory boreholes to assess the environmental effects.

The UK last month moved to restart fracking after fears of earthquakes led to drilling being stopped in 2019.

But new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week indicated he would change course and reinstate the fracking ban.

France passed a law in 2011 banning fracking on its territory.

Updated: October 31, 2022, 10:22 AM