(Adds quotes from EU Energy Commissioner)
BERLIN Feb 1 Germany's upper house of
parliament passed a resolution on Friday urging Chancellor
Angela Merkel's government to tighten the rules for
controversial modern drilling techniques, or fracking, for
The resolution piles the pressure on the government to draw
up clear rules for the practice, which critics say could
increase seismic risks and even pollute drinking water.
The Bundesrat upper house, which represents Germany's 16
federal states, passed a resolution that demands an assessment
of the environmental impact of fracking and public consultation
before it can be started.
"This is about rejecting the use of this technology until
the risks are cleared up 100 percent," Torsten Albig, the Social
Democrat (SPD) premier of the northern state of Schleswig
Holstein, said in the Bundesrat, adding peoples' safety had to
be the top priority.
However, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger urged
Germany to keep an open mind on fracking, saying the EU wanted
to develop the practice, to produce at least enough gas to
replace its own dwindling conventional supplies and to avoid
becoming more import-dependent.
Energy costs rather than labour costs were now a decisive
factor for some energy-intensive industries in deciding where to
set up, he told a conference in Munich, warning that Europe
could face deindustrialisation.
In the United States, new processes have created a shale gas
boom in recent years, freeing the country of importing needs and
changing gas flows in the world market.
Germany's powerful industrial lobby has complained that
companies may lose their competitive edge compared to U.S.
rivals because of the boom which has led to a sharp fall in gas
The resolution was proposed by states run by the opposition
SPD and Greens in the house where Merkel's centre-right
coalition do not have majority.
Permits for fracking, issued by individual states, may only
be granted if it is absolutely clear that there is no risk of
the water supply being affected, according to the resolution.
Germany produces only 14 percent of the gas it uses and
shale gas could help mitigate the effects of dwindling
resources. Some companies, including ExxonMobil are
pushing Germany to explore the possibilities.
Germany's BGR Institute for Geoscience and Natural Resources
has said 0.7 trillion to 2.3 trillion cubic metres of the gas
could be technically extracted. The bulk of that is located in
the northern German plain.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping vast
quantities of water and chemicals at high pressure through drill
holes to prop open shale rocks and free gas trapped underground.
Germany has no national rules on fracking, leaving
individual states to decide whether or not to issue permits.
However, in recent months, there has been a de facto freeze on
granting licences in Germany.
Some other European countries, including Ukraine, Britain
and Poland are also beginning to explore the possibilities of
The Bundesrat resolution does not, however, compel the
government to do anything.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by Keiron Henderson)