April 2, 2013 / 6:20 AM / 6 years ago

EU energy chief tells Germany to keep fracking options open

FRANKFURT, April 2 (Reuters) - Germany risks losing its competitive edge in energy generation if it is too quick to reject fracking as an option in drilling for gas, European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told a German newspaper.

“I advise Germany not to give its final ‘no’ to fracking. Otherwise it will lose important competencies,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Oettinger as saying in an interview published on Tuesday.

Fracking involves pumping vast quantities of water and chemicals at high pressure through drill holes, which together with vertical drilling helps prop open shale rocks to release trapped gas.

Companies including ExxonMobil and BASF’s oil and gas arm Wintershall are pushing to explore possibilities for fracking in Germany, and industrial gas consumers say they could benefit as they need a secure supply at reasonable prices.

Critics say fracking could increase seismic risks and pollute drinking water, and with a national election scheduled for September, both the government and opposition parties are seeking to avoid controversy on the issue.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced reservations, saying risks to people and the environment needed to be evaluated carefully.

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.

“We are having a very emotional discussion in Germany that effectively leads to the end of research. That goes not only for fracking but also for geothermal energy and carbon capture and storage,” Oettinger said in the interview.

He said Germany’s economy was currently so strong that the country risked putting off necessary projects, including infrastructure expansion.

“That will come back to bite Germany in the next decade. We have to be willing to accept certain impositions and take risks if we want to remain competitive,” he said.

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