Germany may be looking for new sources of energy following its decision to abandon nuclear power, but it seems determined to avoid "fracking," the controversial method for extracting natural gas that is booming in the United States.
"The message is we want to limit fracking, we don't want to facilitate it," environment minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio, as reported by Reuters in The Guardian. "And anyway I don't see in the forseeable future that fracking will be employed anywhere within Germany."
Germany's Parliament has proposed rules that would tighten restrictions on fracking, a technique that blasts water and chemicals into shale rock to release trapped natural gas. Critics say the process - also known as hydraulic fracturing - can pollute water supplies and trigger earthquakes.
Corporate giants including ExxonMobil and Germany's BASF - the world's largest chemicals company and owner of an oil and gas division called Wintershall - want to explore fracking possibiilties. Under Germany's federal structure, individual states can decide whether to issue permits.
Since deciding to walk away from nuclear power in the wake of Japan's Fukushiuma nuclear meltdowns nearly two years ago, Germany - Europe's largest economy - has had to find substitute sources of energy. Ironically, it has been importing nuclear power from France. It also has a strong renewables program, but that has not prevented it from increasing its use of fossil fuels like coal and thus adding to its CO2 emissions. Natural gas is a fossil fuel that does not emit as much CO2 as coal.
Germany currently supplies only 14 percent of its natural gas and imports 40 percent of what it consumes from Russia, according to the Reuters article.
Some energy observers say that fracking in the U.S. is setting that country on the road toward energy independence.