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Energy

German draft bill on fracking ready for parliamentary debate

Media reports have said the government in Berlin has agreed on a draft bill regulating the use of controversial hydraulic fracturing technologies in Germany, also known as fracking. There will be many restrictions.

Following many years of public debates, the German government on Tuesday reportedly agreed on the wording of a draft bill regulating the future use of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. This controversial drilling technology makes it possible to tap natural gas resources locked in rock formations in the country.

The German business newspaper "Handelsblatt" said Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and Economics Minister Philipp Rösler saw great potential to access considerable gas deposits, but also warned that fracking could only be used in very strictly regulated circumstances.

The report said the draft legislation foresaw a ban on fracking in all of Germany's water protection areas, meaning that about 14 percent of potential shale gas deposits could never be extracted.

Economic shrewdness?

The draft bill also says that each fracking project needs to be accompanied by thorough environmental tests to make sure that no ground water gets polluted in the process.

The most important thing for me is that people are not jeopardized and the environment is not affected," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the "Straubinger Tagblatt" daily. It remained unclear whether Germany's opposition parties would approve the draft bill in parliament.

Companies such as ExxonMobil of the US are hoping for a lucrative business. The firm has repeatedly pointed to the enormous importance of gas for Germany's ambitious energy transition scheme. It said natural gas would be the country's number-one source of energy by 2030, with nuclear being phased out and coal losing out, too.

At present, gas extracted in Germany accounts for 14 percent of overall energy needs. The use of fracking would make Germany less dependent on gas imports from Russia.

hg / (AFP, dpa)