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Germany’s Fracking Retreat

Editorial, The Wall Street Journal

A proposed ban in response to widespread green hysteria leaves the country at the mercy of Vladimir Putin.

Modern environmentalism is sometimes likened to a medieval religion, in which articles of faith remain binding on believers even when contradicted by reason and evidence. A case in point is an astounding German proposal to ban fracking at just the moment when the need to diversify Europe’s gas supplies has never been greater.

“There will be no fracking for economic purposes in Germany in the near future,” German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks announced at a press conference on Friday. Under her proposal, developed jointly with fellow Social Democrat and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel, most forms of hydraulic fracking—the process of extracting gas by injecting water and sand mixed with a small amount of chemical additives into rocks deep underground—will be prohibited until 2021.

Germany currently imports 90% of its gas supply. Yet the country has up to 2.3 trillion cubic meters of domestic shale gas, according to the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources. “The size of these non-conventional deposits therefore exceeds Germany’s conventional natural gas reserves,” according to German natural-gas producer Wintershall. “And they could continue supplying Germany for up to 100 years with gas assuming the import rate stays the same.”

Germany already possesses much of the infrastructure needed to efficiently produce and distribute shale gas. The country’s 438,000 kilometers of pipelines cover much of Europe, according to a report by the global law firm Vinson & Elkins, which specializes in energy matters. And Germans are fracking pioneers, having used fracking technology to extract tight gas in sand and silt areas since the 1960s.

The proposed move comes in response to widespread green hysteria over claims that fracking poisons groundwater with methane gas. Yet as the U.S. has developed its fracking industry, it has become clear that most groundwater pollution is caused by faulty wells, regardless of drilling method. And even the Obama Administration’s activist Environmental Protection Agency has downwardly revised its estimates of fracking-related methane emissions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats have yet to weigh in on the proposed ban. If enacted, it would leave Germany at the mercy of Vladimir Putin

Full editorial