BERLIN Feb 20 Germany should tread carefully in
developing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to tap shale gas
reserves, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday, in some of
her first public comments on the controversial drilling
Fracking has created a shale gas boom in the United States
but it faces opposition in some European countries where critics
say it could increase seismic risks and pollute drinking water.
"New deposits of gas could very probably be tapped in
Germany with this technology but in contrast to the United
States, we live in a very densely populated country," Merkel
told the Straubinger Tagblatt newspaper.
"We must look carefully at whether this technology can be
used here. For me the most important thing is that there is no
danger for people and the environment," she said, calling for
more national debate on the issue.
A strong environmental lobby is trying to put the brakes on
fracking in Germany. Environment Minister Peter Altmaier, from
Merkel's Christian Democrats, has said he wants to limit
fracking and ban it in areas where drinking water is protected.
Altmaier has said he would like to see a law in place before
an election in September but it is unclear whether Merkel's
coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, will agree.
Germany's BGR Institute for Geoscience and Natural Resources
has said 0.7 trillion to 2.3 trillion cubic metres of shale gas
could be technically extracted. The bulk of that is located in
Germany produces only 14 percent of the gas it consumes and
shale could help mitigate the effects of dwindling reserves.
Fracking involves pumping water and chemicals at high
pressure through drill holes to prop open shale rocks and
release trapped gas.
Some companies, including ExxonMobil and BASF's
Wintershall unit want Germany to explore the options.
The opposition Greens, however, say Altmaier's proposals do
not go far enough to protect the environment and people.
"Altmaier has left open really important questions, such as
the danger of earthquakes, the safety of drill holes and the
disposal of poisonous liquid waste," said Greens energy
spokesman Oliver Krischer.
Fracking should not be used before all risks have been
assessed and a legal framework set out, he added.
The U.S. shale boom has cut the country's reliance on gas
imports and changed gas flows and prices on the world market.