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Green-Left Defeat: German Parliament Votes For Fracking

Stefan Nicola, Bloomberg

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government won votes that will permit fracking to continue in Germany, saying the technique may help the country’s energy supply security.

Merkel’s coalition government defeated motions from the Green Party and Left Party that called for banning hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after the opposition argued the technique is harmful to the environment. The vote was 309 against the Green Party’s motion, 259 in favor and two abstentions. There was no count for the second motion.

There’s no reason to prohibit a technique that’s been used in Germany for many years without incidents, said Andreas Laemmel, a lawmaker with the Christian Democratic Union.

“We need the technology and we need natural gas as a resource won domestically,” Laemmel said in parliament in Berlin before the vote. The U.K. government earlier today lifted a ban on shale-gas fracking.

Companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) have drilled test wells into unconventional natural gas reservoirs in Germany in an attempt to emulate the U.S. shale-gas boom. While a successful drilling campaign would redraw the energy map across Europe — a continent reliant on Russia for about a quarter of its gas — little headway has been made in Germany, largely due to public opposition on environmental grounds.

Fracking involves drilling hundreds of wells and cracking shale rocks with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals, to unlock gas or oil from impermeable stone. The Green party says the method should be banned until possible risks related to groundwater pollution and seismic shocks can be managed.

Fracking has been practiced in Germany since the 1960s, and has been used at least 275 times at conventional gas and oil wells in Lower Saxony state, according to a study presented by the Environment Ministry in September. It was outlawed in France last year and the practice is also banned in Bulgaria.

The government has commissioned studies on fracking to further evaluate the method and will adopt regulation if necessary, Laemmel said.

Bloomberg, 13 December 2012