Europe’s shift toward banning fracking

Germany becomes latest country to take steps towards banning fracking due to environmental concerns

The German government has passed a regulatory package to monitor fracking: the controversial practice which blasts water, sand and chemicals underground to release shale oil and gas. Germany joins France, Bulgaria and Scotland who have also taken steps to regulate fracking amid concerns over the method’s environmental impact.

Germany, which has one of the most successful renewable energy sectors in the world, will review the moratorium on ‘unconventional fracking’ (shale gas and coalbed methane) in 2021.

“The German government has listened to the voices of ordinary people, who have overwhelmingly said they don’t want fracking,” said Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Emma Gibson. She said fracking poses multiple threats to local environments – from noise and air pollution to water contamination.

“The British government needs to listen to and respect local opinion here in the UK. From Sussex to Lancashire, communities have united against fracking,” added Gibson.

Fracking’s proponents say that the practice allows access to difficult-to-reach resources of oil and gas, and that it can generate electricity with half the CO2 emissions of coal. The view that fracking offers an ‘untapped opportunity’ means it has been pursued hungrily by US energy companies.

Friends of the Earth Europe’s Antoine Simon told the Guardian why fracking may be enjoying a cooler reception in Europe: “The failure, so far, of shale gas development in Europe is mostly due to a failure by the fossil fuels industry to understand the differing context here. We have a higher population density, a population not used to living in close proximity of gas production fields and higher environmental standards.”

Recent missions in Poland and Denmark by oil giants Exxon, Chevron and Marathon have forced them to leave empty handed. Hillary Clinton’s attempts to open up a shale gas market for US companies in Romania ended to the sound of protest and Chevron’s eventual retreat. In Bulgaria, a US trade mission to develop a fracking model was also thwarted by a ban.

And the UK could be set to follow suit: the Labour party has announced plans to ban fracking if elected.

Image: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters